Eddie Scarry reports: Liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is reporting from North Korea and sharing photos on social media of school children, food and the “fun” he is witnessing in the rogue country.
“North Koreans like to have fun, too.”
— Nicholas Kristof
Kristof began tweeting and posting photos to Instagram on Tuesday and he said he has interviewed government officials and toured “a side of the country that doesn’t always come through.”
One photo showed what appeared to be an amusement park. “North Koreans like to have fun, too,” Kristof wrote in the caption of one photo that showed a park ride. “People were shouting happily on this ride on an amusement park.”
In another photo from North Korea, a country that has long faced food shortages resulting in a largely starved population, Kristof showed a meal he was having.
“Lunch in Pyongyang, North Korea, at a pizza restaurant with live music,” the caption said. Read the rest of this entry »
Singer Joyce Villa wore a ‘Make America Great Again’ gown.
Scandalous dresses on the Grammys red carpet aren’t what they used to be. It wasn’t deep cleavage or a thigh-high leg slit that had tongues wagging about singer Joyce Villa on Sunday night. It was her red, white and blue gown emblazoned with “Make
America Great Again” in front, and “Trump” across the train.
It’s a controversial statement coming from an artist in an industry that’s largely in opposition to the new president’s social policies, not to mention from a woman who identifies as bi-racial.
[In other words, The Hollywood Reporter finds it shocking, and controversial for the President of the United States to receive public support from a non-white entertainer]
The singer-songwriter, who goes by the name Princess Joy Villa, teased the ensemble on Instagram with a photo of a heart-shaped clutch and a caption stating, “My whole artistic platform is about LOVE. I couldn’t be where I am today without the love and tenderness of those beautiful supporters and friends around me.”
Villa went on to say, ”I hope you enjoy tonight’s #grammyawards2017 and remember to forget your problems and focus on the future! You are infinite and beautiful and no one can stop you but you. Read the rest of this entry »
The popular “homesharing” service made it affordable to book a beachfront property in Santa Monica. Then the city intervened.
Doug Sosnik says the Democrats will be “at considerable risk” when the president leaves office.
One of the Democrats’ most veteran strategists warns that the party is “in decline” and “at considerable risk” when President Barack Obama is no longer on the scene.
“Since Obama was elected President, the Democrats have lost nine governorships, 56 members of the House and two Senate seats,” Doug Sosnik, the political director in Bill Clinton’s White House, writes in a new memo.
While Republican branding problems get the lion’s share of attention, the Democratic Party’s favorability rating has declined by 15 points since Obama took power. A Pew Research Center survey this January showed that the Democratic Party was viewed favorably by 47 percent of Americans, down from 62 percent in Jan. 2009.
These memos are read closely by an influential community of insiders in the political and business worlds. In this one, Sosnik outlines several challenges facing his own party:
• Obama’s personal popularity does not easily translate for other candidates. The president is not building the Democratic Party’s institutional apparatus in a way that it will thrive when he’s gone.
• The losses in the 2010 midterms gave Republicans control of the redistricting process, which will be in effect until after the 2020 census. This gives the GOP a structural advantage in keeping the House.
• Millennials, born 1981 to 1994, and Generation X’ers, born 1965 to 1980, are voting Democratic, but a plurality identify themselves as independents — which makes them less reliable.
With the likelihood of gridlock and near-record-low confidence in public institutions, Sosnik expects 2014 to bring the fourth change election in the past eight years. Read the rest of this entry »
The owner of Vinnie’s Pizzeria, Sean Berthiaume, must have been channeling Xzbit earlier this week when he thought to himself, “Yo Dawg, I heard you liked pizza, so I put your pizza in a box made from pizza.” But lo and behold here is the world’s first ever entirely edible pizza box that really works as more of a pizza sandwich than a functional box.
This isn’t Sean’s first brush with pizza glory…(read more)
Long-withheld document provides insight into secretive system in which people can be placed on terrorism databases with astounding ease, and without any way to get off.
Spencer Ackerman reports: Placement on a terrorism watchlist is a life-changing event. Your travel is monitored and in many cases restricted. If overseas, you could be stranded, costing your employment or reunion with your family. You could be detained and, certain lawsuits allege, tortured by foreign governments.
Yet the ease with which someone can be placed on US watchlists and terrorism databases contrasts markedly with the impact placement has. A long-withheld document published on Wednesday by the Intercept detailing the guidelines for placement shows that the standards for inclusion are far lower than probable cause, and the ability for someone caught in the datasets to challenge their placement do not exist. In 2013, the government made 468,749 nominations for inclusion to the Terrorist Screening Database, up from 227,932 nominations in 2009; few are rejected.
The rise – and the low standards the Intercept documented – is partially explained by the near-miss airliner bombing in Christmas 2009, by a man connected to a Yemeni branch of al-Qaida. Partially it is explained by the overwhelming secrecy surrounding the process: attorney general Eric Holder has called it a state secret (although the guidance document itself is unclassified), preventing meaningful outside challenges that would recalibrate a balance between reasonable expectations of security and liberty.
That secrecy, as the Intercept’s publication indicates, is starting to erode – slowly. Recent court cases have given the beginnings of insight into how the US government’s apparatus of terrorism databases and watchlists works in practice. Here is a guide.
They’re reading your tweets
The watchlisting guidance says that “first amendment protected activity alone shall not be the basis” for nominating someone to the lists. The key word: alone. What you say, write and publish can and will be used against you. Particularly if you tweet it, pin it or share it.
The guidelines recognize that looking at “postings on social media sites” is constitutionally problematic. But those posts “should not automatically be discounted”, the guidelines state. Instead, the agency seeking to watchlist someone should evaluate the “credibility of the source, as well as the nature and specificity of the information”. If they’re concerned about a tweet, in other words, they’re likely to go through a user’s timeline. That joke about that band blowing up could come back to haunt you at the airport.
Where you go might get you placed on the list – and then stranded
Contained within the guidance is a potential reason why many US Muslims find themselves abruptly unable to return from trips abroad without explanation. An example given of “potential behavioral indicators” of terrorism is “travel for no known lawful or legitimate purpose to a locus of TERRORISM ACTIVITY”. Not defined: “lawful”, “legitimate” or “locus”. That could mean specific training camps, travel to which few would dispute the merits of watchlisting. Or it could mean entire countries where terrorists are known or suspected of operating – and where millions of Americans travel every year.
The guidelines themselves, in that very section, warn that such behavioral indicators include “activity that may have innocent explanations wholly unrelated to terrorism”. It warns analysts not to judge any circumstance “in isolation”.
What happens on the no-fly list does not stay on the no-fly list. A federal judge, writing in June, noted that the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center shares information on banned passengers with 22 foreign governments as well as “ship captains”, resulting in potential “interference with an individual’s ability to travel by means other than commercial airlines”.
Many people who have sued the US government over the watchlists have reported being unable to return from travel abroad. Ali Ahmed, a US citizen in San Diego, attempted in 2012 to fly to Kenya to meet his fiancee for their arranged marriage. But first he flew to Saudi Arabia to make the religiously encouraged pilgrimage to Mecca; he found himself stranded in Bahrain after he was unable to enter Kenya. Ayman Latif, a disabled US marine originally from Miami who now lives in Egypt, was prevented from flying to the US for a disability evaluation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
There’s room for the family (and perhaps your friends)
A precursor data set that feeds the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB or, “the watchlist”) is the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center. TIDE contains records of known or suspected international terrorists. It also contains information on their families and perhaps their friends.
“Alien spouses and children” of people NCTC labels terrorists get put into TIDE. They “may be inadmissible to the United States”, presumed to be dangerous. TIDE also contains “non-terrorist” records of people who have a “close relationship with KNOWN or SUSPECTED terrorists”, the guidance reads. Examples listed are fathers or brothers, although the guidance does not specify a blood or marital relationship as necessary for inclusion. Those people can be American citizens or noncitizens inside the United States. While those “close relation[s]” are not supposed to be passed on for watchlisting absent other “derogatory information”, their data may be retained within TIDE for unspecified “analytic purposes”.
Just because a jury finds you innocent doesn’t mean watchlists agree
The guidelines explicitly state that someone “acquitted or against whom charges are dismissed for a crime related to terrorism” can still be watchlisted. A federal official nominating such a person for inclusion on the list just needs “reasonable suspicion” of a danger – something defined as more than “mere guesses or hunches”, based on articulable information or “rational inferences” from it, but far less than probable cause. A judge or jury’s decision is not controlling.
Watch how you walk
In keeping with a general enthusiasm exhibited by law enforcement and the military for identifying someone based on their seemingly unique physical attributes, biometric information is eligible as a criteria to watchlist someone. Several of those biometric identifiers are traditional law enforcement ones, like fingerprints; others are exceptionally targeted, like DNA. Then there are others that reflect emerging or immature analytic subjects: “digital images”, iris scans, and “gait” – that is, the way you walk.
Gait and other biometric identifiers do not appear sufficient to watchlist someone. But they are sufficient to nominate someone to the watchlist or TIDE, provided they rise to the “minimum substantive derogatory standards” – articulable reasons for suspecting someone of involvement of terrorism, a far lower standard than probable cause – unless they come accompanied with evidence that the manner of walk in question includes “an individual with a defined relationship with the KNOWN or SUSPECTED terrorist”. It does not appear that a particular swagger by itself can be watchlisted.
Lisa says …
Lisa Monaco is a former US attorney who holds one of the most powerful and least accountable positions in the US security apparatus: assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism. She has enormous influence over the watchlisting system. Read the rest of this entry »
The actress marched with Leary’s remains into a special church, which was built as one of the many art displays during the seven-day event. The gothic cathedral structure was later set aflame with other art creations (including a 60-foot giant man) in a spectacle that left crowds in awe.
“When I went to Burning Man last time, that’s when I thought I’d bring him back here. I think he’d be so happy.”
Most of Leary’s ashes were sent to outer space in 1997, but Sarandon kept a small amount that she saved for a special moment. The actress worked with Burning Man and photographer Michael Garlington to lend a creative hand during the weeklong festival. Read the rest of this entry »
Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica, posted a photo on Instagram of her comedian husband, their son, Julian, and two other boys with their hands on top of their heads in surrender, with a police car behind them.
Kipp Jones writes: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his family were operating a charity lemonade stand a week ago in East Hampton Village, NY, when they were forced to shut down the operation after police received a complaint from a neighbor.
Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica, posted a photo on Instagram of her comedian husband, their son, Julian, and two other boys with their hands on top of their heads in surrender, with a police car behind them, after the August 18 charity operation was shut down….(read more)
The Department of Phenomenal Pencil Art continues to marvel at the astonishingly intricate pencil sculptures created by Russian artist Salavat Fidai(previously featured here). Using an X-ACTO knife and extraordinary amounts of patience and care he can transform the end of an art pencil into tiny human figures – such as an astronaut and deep sea diver, expressive hands – including one offering the Vulcan salute, or any number of famous buildings. Read the rest of this entry »
A guide to patchwork and confusing laws on taking it off
Venice Beach neighborhood of Los Angeles voiced support this week for allowing women to sunbathe topless, calling the move “a serious equality issue” and citing the city’s Italian namesake as one of many European regions where toplessness is socially acceptable. But topless sunbathing is illegal in the city and county of Los Angeles, and the local disagreement is just the skin of a patchwork of nudity laws and customs that vary by state and municipality across the country.Local officials in the
The vast majority of states actually have laws on the books making clear that women can’t be arrested under state law solely for being topless in settings where it’s OK for men. But many local ordinances ban the practice anyway. And there’s plenty of grey area for police officers to make their own interpretations and make arrests for “public indecency” or “disorderly conduct.”
Celebrities like Chelsea Handler and Miley Cyrus have been public critics of what they call a double-standard that women face when it comes to going shirtless, and have tried to get Instagram to stop taking down photos of breasts, garnering some support with the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Scout Willis, daughter of the actor Bruce Willis, recently illustrated the point that women are technically permitted to walk the streets of New York City topless—but not to post topless photos on Instagram—by posting shirtless photos of herself on city sidewalks to Twitter. Read the rest of this entry »
Two Turkish caricaturists have been fined for insulting President Tayyip Erdogan after a court ruled that one of their cartoons implied he was gay, local media said on Wednesday.
“Erdogan, who brooks little dissent, has dominated politics for more than a decade in Sunni Muslim Turkey, where homosexuality is widely frowned upon.”
Bahadir Baruter and Ozer Aydogan were prosecuted for an illustration on the front page of satirical magazine Penguen last August in which an official greeted Erdogan while apparently making a circle with his thumb and forefinger.
“Others to fall foul of his sensitivities include a former Miss Turkey winner, who is facing a possible jail term for allegedly insulting him on social media, and a 13-year old boy who was this month questioned over a Facebook post.”
Prosecutors launched the indictment after a citizen complained that the hand signal, commonly used in Turkey to insult homosexuals, was against the country’s moral values.
Lawyers representing Erdogan then got involved in the case, demanding that the court punish the cartoonists for “insulting a public official”, Hurriyet newspaper reported. Read the rest of this entry »
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…
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)
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 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 »
Beirut (AFP) – Miss Universe contestants are keen to proclaim their desire for world peace, but this year’s Miss Lebanon has declared war after claiming Miss Israel muscled in uninvited during a group “selfie.”
Saly Greige took to her Facebook page to declare that Israel’s Doron Matalon had pushed her way into a now widely-circulated photo showing the Middle Eastern beauties with Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia.
“I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself, suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media.”
“Since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel (that tried several times to have a photo with me),” Greige wrote in English on her page.
“I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself, suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media.”
The offending photo, taken in Miami where the Miss Universe pageant is staged, appeared on Matalon’s Instagram account on January 11.
It shows Miss Israel with a beaming Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan, and Miss Lebanon, who appears to be gritting her teeth.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad. Too bad you can not put the hostility out of the game.“
— Miss Israel Doron Matalon
Matalon responded to the controversy herself on Sunday, saying it made her “sad”.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad. Too bad you can not put the hostility out of the game,” she wrote in English and Hebrew. Read the rest of this entry »
Police Officer Wenjian Liu and Police Officer Rafael Ramos were shot and killed from ambush while sitting in their patrol car at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Thompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Both officers were participating in an anti-terrorism drill when a subject walked up their patrol car and opened fire with a handgun, striking them both in the head and upper body multiple times. Other officers immediately pursued the the subject into a nearby subway station where the man committed suicide.
The subject was a gang member from Baltimore, Maryland, who had traveled to New York City specifically to ambush police officers. The man had published his intentions on social media prior to the shooting.
Officer Liu had served with the New York City Police Department for four years. Read the rest of this entry »
A reminder to iPhone owners cheering Apple’s latest privacy win: Just because Apple will no longer help police to turn your smartphone inside out doesn’t mean it can prevent the cops from vivisecting the device on their own.
“I am quite impressed, Mr. Cook! That took courage. But it does not mean that your data is beyond law enforcement’s reach.”
— iOS forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski
On Wednesday evening Apple made news with a strongly-worded statement about how it protects users’ data from government requests. And the page noted at least one serious change in that privacy stance: No longer will Apple aid law enforcement or intelligence agencies in cracking its users’ passcodes to access their email, photos, or other mobile data. That’s a 180-degree flip from its previous offer to cops, which demanded only that they provide the device to Apple with a warrantto have its secrets extracted.
In fact, Apple claims that the new scheme now makes Apple not only unwilling, but unable to open users’ locked phones for law enforcement. “Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access [your personal] data,” reads the new policy. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”
“I can do it. I’m sure the guys in suits in the governments can do it. And I’m sure that there are at least three or four commercial tools that can still do this, too.”
But as the media and privacy activists congratulated Apple on that new resistance to government snooping, iOS forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski offered a word of caution for the millions of users clamoring to pre-order the iPhone 6 and upgrade to iOS 8. In many cases, he points out, the cops can still grab and offload sensitive data from your locked iPhone without Apple’s help, even in iOS 8. All they need, he says, is your powered-on phone and access to a computer you’ve previously used to move data onto and off of it. Read the rest of this entry »
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 13, 2014
The Push to Ostracize Gun Fans on Facebook
This, at least, is the premise of a new gun-control petition, in which the entertainingly neurotic founder of Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watts, complains that “Facebook and Instagram are currently being used to facilitate sales and trades of firearms between private sellers.” In consequence, Watts and her cohorts are calling for the company to “ban gun-themed fan pages on the site,” technology website VentureBeat confirmed yesterday. Thus far, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a few drearily predictable celebrities, and nearly 100,000 Americans have added their names to the supplication.
“…After all, the Internet presents a genuine and welcome challenge to centralized authority, and the state has not yet managed to quell the unruly hordes. And do Facebook and Instagram contribute to this headache? Yes, of course…”
In her entreaty, Watts gripes that Facebook’s “platforms unfortunately allow users to buy, sell, and trade firearms without requiring criminal background checks.” This, she suggests, is “a threat to public safety and the security of our families.” In fact, the “platforms” “allow” no such thing. As a spokesman for Facebook noted with barely disguised irritation, “you can’t buy things on Instagram and Facebook, nor can you promote the sale or use of weapons in advertising.” What he presumably didn’t feel he needed to clarify is that what the two “platforms” dofacilitate is people talking to one another — a service, it should be remembered, that is provided by almost every interactive system on the Internet, including e-mail, instant- and text-messaging services, photo-sharing venues, blogging hosts, comments sections, and forums.
John Brownlee reports: Moritz Stefaner and his collaborators analyzed more than 3,000 Instagram selfies from around the world, revealing everything from the age of the average selfie taker to how much she opens her mouth and more.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many is a selfie worth?
That’s what SelfieCity wants to find out. A new project by data visualization wunderkind in collaboration with Lev Manovich, Jay Chow, and Nadav Hochman, SelfieCity is an attempt to analyze the data of more than 3,000 self-portraits and, in doing so, extrapolate what a selfie is even meant to say in the first place. In the process, SelfieCity was able to figure out everything from the age of the average selfie takers to how much they opened their mouth and more…
“People take fewer selfies than you’d think.”
• People take fewer selfies than you’d think. According to SelfieCity’s data, only 3% to 5% of the 300,000-plus images that they examined were actually selfies.
• Women take more selfies than men. “In every city we analyzed, there are significantly more women selfies than men taking, from 1.3 times as many in Bangkok to 1.9 times more in Berlin,” Stefaner says. In Moscow, the discrepancy is even more striking: 4.6 times more women take selfies in the Russian capitol then men. No matter where, if a man takes selfies, though, he’s likely to be older: the median age of men who post selfies on Instagram is more than 30 years old.
“People are happiest in Bangkok and São Paulo, and more miserable in Moscow.”
• Women strike more extreme poses in selfies (especially in São Paulo). According to SelfieCity’s research, women tend to take more expressive, sexy poses than men in their selfies. On average, the head tilt of a woman’s selfie is 150% higher than for men (12.3° vs. 8.2°). Translated, this means an awful lot of women take selfies holding their cameras way above their heads. But in São Paulo, it’s even crazier: there, the average head tilt for females is 16.9°! Guess they want to fit their bikinis in-frame.
“Under the guise of caring for children…”
“…I mean if we’re going to be afraid of things, let’s be afraid of that which actually exists in reality, not some pistol boogeyman born of a gun phobia.”
Do you ever feel frustrated that you can’t keep tabs on your significant other at all times? Nervous that everyone is hanging out without you? Curious about what the heck your neighbors are doing over there?
Thankfully, there’s a Pocket Drone currently being funded on Kickstarter that will solve these problems and more. It only takes 20 seconds to unpack and launch. Then, you can load it up with any video camera you own, as long as the payload is less than half a pound. Hit record and you’re off, creating surveillance footage of everyone you know.
Control Pocket Drone with an app on your phone or tablet, and you can access hard-to-reach places like the café where that hot neighbor you’ve been Facebook stalking gets his coffee every morning.
The Experts Have Spoken: Instagram Pictures of Food Will Ruin Your Meal
Eliana Dockterman reports: When your friend stops you from digging into your delicious meal so that she can Instagram the food, it spoils the eating experience. And there’s science to prove that.
A new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology says that over-exposure to food photos on Instagram ruins your meal. Marketing professors at Brigham Young University asked 232 people to look at and rate pictures of food.
Half of the participants looked a pictures of sweet food (cakes, pastries), half at pictures of salty food (pretzels, chips). Both groups were then asked to have a salty food snack. Those who had looked at pictures of salty food enjoyed their snack less. Read the rest of this entry »