Opinion | When a Politician and a Lawman Try to Play the Hero- the Lawman Usually Wins – by Gail Collins and Brett Stephens – NYT

Bret Stephens: Gail, I know we need to discuss James Comey’s new book and President Trump’s Twitter neuralgia about it, but I wanted to get your thoughts about the attack in Syria in response to the gas attacks — the suspected gas attacks, I should say — near Damascus.Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as a top adviser in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, said “It will not stop the war” and “is illegal under international law.” Yet she praised it because “it at least draws a line somewhere and says enough.” What do you think?

Gail Collins: There had to be a response, and it had to be one that wouldn’t put Syrian civilians in the line of fire. In a perfect world we’d have been in serious negotiations to try to end the violence before the strike occurred. In a perfect world there wouldn’t have been that presidential chest-thumping. In a perfect world we wouldn’t, for God’s sake, be calling it “Mission Accomplished.”So I guess I think that given the guy we’ve got in the White House, it was about the best we could have hoped for. How about you?

Bret: I’m surprised to find myself writing this, but I think the strike was a waste of perfectly good cruise missiles. We did nearly the exact same thing last year, and it did nothing to stop Bashar al-Assad from slaughtering his own people and using chemical weapons on them. If we really believe, as I do, that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated, then we can’t allow the guy who used them to come away from the strike unscathed and — given that he’s immediately renewed his offensive in the area — emboldened.

The strike really was classic Trump: A show of force mainly for the sake of show, without any strategy behind it. Iran has entrenched itself in Syria alongside Russia, while Israel is quietly preparing for war on its northern front. The administration looks likely to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal next month, but little thought seems to have been given to what comes after. In all, just another reminder that the Trump disaster is global.”

 

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Cambridge Analytica and the Coming Data Bust – The New York Times

The queasy truth at the heart of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which is so far the company’s defining disgrace of 2018, is that its genesis became scandalous only in retrospect. The series of events that now implicate Facebook began in 2014, in plain view, with a listing on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, where users can complete small tasks for commensurately modest sums of cash. In exchange for installing a Facebook app and completing a survey — in the process granting the app access to parts of your Facebook profile — you would get around a dollar. Maybe two.

This was a great deal, at least by the standards of the time. Facebook users were then accustomed to granting apps permission to see their personal data in exchange for much less. It was the tail end of a Facebook era defined by connected apps: games like FarmVille, Candy Crush and Words With Friends; apps that broadcast your extra-Facebook activities, like Spotify and Pinterest; and apps that were almost explicitly about gathering as much useful data as possible from users, like TripAdvisor’s Cities I’ve Visited app, which let you share a digital pushpin map with your friends.

via Cambridge Analytica and the Coming Data Bust – The New York Times

Disturbing. The Bloomberg article in the following comment is worse.

I posted this piece above to my Facebook account, writing:

Facebook is much worse than I realized. This article is ugly, the one before it from Bloomberg is really scary. A call to reformers. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I think these marketers in the Bloomberg story, are connected to all the telemarketers that keep calling my house all day.

Look Ahead

is a trusted commenter WA 56 minutes ago

Must read article from Bloomberg about how Facebook and others help scammers.

“They go out and find the morons for me” says one scammer.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-03-27/ad-scammers-need-suck…

If tobacco companies can be compelled to pay for anti-smoking public service announcements, then perhaps Facebook, Google and other data aggregators could be recruited in a fight against scammers, phishers and other fraudsters they have enabled.

As of now, there is no “fight”. It is simply a global criminal free-for-all, with the US in particular passively observing the crimes.

 

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Ad Scammers Need Suckers- and Facebook Helps Find Them – Bloomberg

It was a Davos for digital hucksters. One day last June, scammers from around the world gathered for a conference at a renovated 19th century train station in Berlin. All the most popular hustles were there: miracle diet pills, instant muscle builders, brain boosters, male enhancers. The “You Won an iPhone” companies had display booths, and the “Your Computer May Be Infected” folks sent salesmen. Russia was represented by the promoters of a black-mask face peel, and Canada made a showing with bot-infested dating sites.

They’d come to mingle with thousands of affiliate marketers—middlemen who buy online ad space in bulk, run their campaigns, and earn commissions for each sale they generate. Affiliates promote some legitimate businesses, such as Amazon.com Inc. and EBay Inc., but they’re also behind many of the shady and misleading ads that pollute Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest of the internet.

Robert Gryn says users of his tracking software place about $400 million worth of ads a year on Facebook.PHOTOGRAPHER: ANGIE SMITH FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK
The top affiliates—virtually all of them young men—assemble a few times a year to learn the latest schemes and trade tips about gaming the rules set by social networks and search platforms. They think of themselves as kin to the surfers-slash-bank-robbers of the 1991 movie Point Break, just more materialistic, jetting from nightclub to Lamborghini race while staying a step ahead of the authorities. One San Diego crew took in $179 million before getting busted last year by the Federal Trade Commission for violating three laws governing online conduct.

The Berlin conference was hosted by an online forum called Stack That Money, but a newcomer could be forgiven for wondering if it was somehow sponsored by Facebook Inc. Saleswomen from the company held court onstage, introducing speakers and moderating panel discussions. After the show, Facebook representatives flew to Ibiza on a plane rented by Stack That Money to party with some of the top affiliates.

It was hard to believe that Facebook would cozy up to disreputable advertisers in mid-2017 as it was under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and the media over revelations that Russian trolls had used the platform to influence the 2016 presidential election. Officially, the Berlin conference was for aboveboard marketing, but the attendees I spoke to dropped that pretense after the mildest questioning. Some even walked around wearing hats that said “farmin’,” promoting a service that sells fake Facebook accounts.

via Ad Scammers Need Suckers, and Facebook Helps Find Them – Bloomberg

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Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership to Shield Farmers From Trade War – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump told a gathering of farm state lawmakers and governors on Thursday morning that he was directing his advisers to look into rejoining the multicountry trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the White House tries to come up with ways to protect the agriculture sector, which could be badly hurt by the president’s trade policies.

Rejoining the trade pact would be a surprising change in policy for Mr. Trump, who long criticized the deal and withdrew from it last January, in his first major trade action. The president has long maintained that he prefers to negotiate trade deals one on one, a tactic he says gives the United States better leverage over its trading partners.

But the risk of an escalating trade war with China has panicked American farmers and ranchers, who send many of their products abroad. China has responded to Mr. Trump’s threat of tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese goods by placing its own tariffs on American pork, and threatening taxes on soybeans, sorghum, corn and beef.

China’s aggressive response to Mr. Trump’s tariffs is aimed squarely at products produced in the American heartland, a region that helped send him to the White House. A trade war with China could be particularly devastating to rural economies, especially for pig farmers and soybean and corn growers. Nearly two-thirds of United States soybean exports go to China.

via Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership to Shield Farmers From Trade War – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Dear fellow readers, If Donald Trump wants to show he can learn, and is willing to embrace the Trans Pacific Partnership, one of Obama’s smartest, most sophisticated, and most difficult to explain treaties, we should all applaud! (Applause.)

Unfortunately, it will have its negative effects. I was looking forward to all those red, agricultural states, turning blue in anger over Trump’s dumb as doornails tariff war with China.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com

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Opinion | Staring Down on Syria – by Brett Stephens – NYT

On Saturday I took my family to have a closer look at Syria.

This was on the Golan Heights, from a roadside promontory overlooking the abandoned Syrian town of Quneitra. The border is very green at this time of year, a serene patchwork of orchards and grassland, and it was hard to impress on our kids that hell on earth was visible in the quiet distance.

But I wanted them to see it — to know that Syria is a place, not an abstraction; that the agonies of its people are near, not far; that we should not look away. Later that day, in a suburb of Damascus, Syrian forces apparently again gassed their own people.

It’s fortunate for Israel that it did not bargain the Heights away during the ill-fated peace processes of the 1990s: Had it done so, ISIS, Hezbollah or Iran might in time have trained their guns on Israeli towns below. The strategy of withdrawal-for-peace has not been vindicated in recent years, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or Gaza. It’s a point Donald Trump obviously missed when he insisted last week on U.S. withdrawal from Syria, likely encouraging the apparent chemical attack he now threatens to punish.

via Opinion | Staring Down on Syria – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
I almost support Brett Stevens. He has made a strong argument. But the commentor JW is right in his remarks here, echoing the caution by Madeleine Albright on the Steven Colbert show the other night. We need a policy, a strategy, and the same for the aftermath.
I propose looking at a major campaign, to take out most of or all of Assad’s airforce. That would be the beginning of the enforcement of a no fly zone over major parts of Syria, where the people we support or would protect live. To do this, we should enlist NATO and the US Congress, very quietly. The NYT reported a few years ago that Assad’s government has very sophisticated, Russian-built, anti-aircraft defenses. These defenses would have to be degraded to essentially inoperable.
If congress says no, I would repeated the limited strikes like last year, just to show the flag and some mettle. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much before, but it did probably reduce the amount of ethnic cleansing by chemical weapons, which civilized nations and people should oppose with force.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
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EDF Satellite Could Detect Planet-Warming Plumes on the Ground – The New York Times

Tom Ingersoll, a longtime satellite entrepreneur, admits being startled by a call he received last year: A nonprofit foundation wanted to build a satellite and launch it into orbit to help fight climate change. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s kind of crazy.’”

In February, he signed on as the project’s manager, after having taken a long look at the technologies required. “It’s hard, but we could probably pull it off,” he said.

Now the rest of the world can decide for itself. On Wednesday, Fred Krupp, the president of the Environmental Defense Fund, announced plans for MethaneSAT, an orbital eye in the sky that could monitor industrial methane leaks all over the planet.

Methane remains one of the thorniest climate problems. It is the major component of natural gas, which produces half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned to run electric plants. But when methane leaks, it is a potent greenhouse gas that traps more than 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere. By some estimates, human-caused emissions of methane are thought to be responsible for about a quarter of the warming being experienced today.

via An Eye in the Sky Could Detect Planet-Warming Plumes on the Ground – The New York Times

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I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes. – By BRIAN X. CHEN – NYT

When I downloaded a copy of my Facebook data last week, I didn’t expect to see much. My profile is sparse, I rarely post anything on the site, and I seldom click on ads. (I’m what some call a Facebook “lurker.”)

But when I opened my file, it was like opening Pandora’s box.

With a few clicks, I learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years, including my exes.

There was so much that Facebook knew about me — more than I wanted to know. But after looking at the totality of what the Silicon Valley company had obtained about yours truly, I decided to try to better understand how and why my data was collected and stored. I also sought to find out how much of my data could be removed.

via I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes. – The New York Times

.David Lindsay on Facebook, wrote for his post there:

I didn’t want to read this piece below. Now, I have to put on my to do list, to do what Brian Chen did, and look at my collected FB files. I am more careful than Chen in one regard. I never let anyone see any address books.. I never log on to anywhere with my fb or other identity. Those are ways to lose all privacy. But I use FB, Like things.

The best thing I learned from my news studies yesterday, is that Mark Zuckerberg announce before Congressional hearings that FB will accept the European regulations starting May 25th, and extend those protection to all its customers in the world. Thank you European Union. Journalists reported that many Senators revealed from their questions that they know almost nothing about FB or how it works.

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Those 2-Minute Walk Breaks? They Add Up – The New York Times

Walk for two minutes. Repeat 15 times. Or walk for 10 minutes, thrice. The benefits for longevity appear to be almost exactly the same, according to an inspiring new study of physical activity patterns and life spans.

It finds that exercise does not have to be prolonged in order to be beneficial. It just has to be frequent.

Most of us who are interested in health know that federal exercise guidelines recommend we work out moderately for at least 30 minutes per day at least five times per week in order to reduce our risks of developing many diseases or dying prematurely.

These guidelines also recommend that we accumulate those 30 minutes of daily exercise in bouts lasting for at least 10 minutes at a time.

The guidelines, first published in 2008, were based on the best exercise science available at the time, including several studies indicating that if exercise sessions were briefer than 10 minutes, they would not increase people’s aerobic fitness, meaning their athletic endurance.

via Those 2-Minute Walk Breaks? They Add Up – The New York Times

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Tunnel Book Light With Dark Detecting Circuit and Solar-powered Battery

From Sarah Brug
May 29, 2017 ·

Instructables

·

I made an Instructable.

I wanted a light at the end of a long dark hallway in my house that would turn on by itself when it got dark, not need battery replacements, and be an…
instructables.com
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Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think | HuffPost

What Is Petroleum Jelly?

Petroleum jelly, commonly known by the most popular brandname Vaseline, is a derivative of oil refining. Originally found coating the bottom of oil rigs in the mid-1800s, it’s a byproduct of the oil industry and therefore an unsustainable resource (read: not eco-friendly). It’s commonly used topically to cure everything from dehydrated, flakey skin to diaper rash.

Why Is It Potentially Harmful?

Though generally regarded as safe, the components that are removed from the oil during the refining process of petroleum jelly are carcinogenic in some cases. “Vaseline supposedly has all of these [components] removed,” Dr. Dattner says. “But there are probably plenty of petroleum jelly imitators, and one doesn’t always know the extent that they’re removed.” Denno also points out that, since petroleum jelly can be found in “different grades of purity,” you don’t always know how non-toxic your petroleum jelly-based beauty products really are. (For the record, Vaseline is highly-refined, triple-purified and regarded as non-carcinogenic.)

As for your skin? According to Denno, Petroleum jelly can create the illusion of moisturized, hydrated skin, all the while suffocating your pores. It’s water-repellant and not water-soluble, meaning it merely seals the barrier so that moisture does not leave the skin. So while you might feel the instant gratification of a softened surface, you’re actually drying out your pores by keeping out air and moisture. What’s more, the thick texture makes it difficult to cleanse from the skin, so never slather Vaseline on an unwashed face if you want to avoid breakouts. “It essentially seals in the dirt,” he said. (Vaseline says on its website that its product is non-comedogenic, which means that the product does not itself block pores.)

via Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think | HuffPost

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