Mos Def force-fed under standard Guantánamo Bay procedure

This is disturbing. I have much respect for the man for going through with this to show just how terrifying the procedure is:

As Ramadan begins, more than 100 hunger-strikers in Guantánamo Bay continue their protest. More than 40 of them are being force-fed. A leaked document sets out the military instructions, or standard operating procedure, for force-feeding detainees. In this four-minute film made by Human Rights organisation Reprieve and Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia, US actor and rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), experiences the procedure.

The first thing sold on the Internet was a bag of marijuana

Online highs are old as the net: the first e-commerce was a drugs deal – Mike Power:

News in this year’s Global Drugs Survey that internet drug dealing was on the rise will have alarmed, surprised or intrigued many people. But the very first thing bought and sold on the net was a bag of marijuana – over 40 years ago.

In 1971 or 1972, Stanford students using Arpanet accounts at Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory engaged in a commercial transaction with their counterparts at Massachussetts Institute of Technology. Before Amazon, before eBay, the seminal act of e-commerce was a drug deal. The students used the network to quietly arrange the sale of an undetermined amount of marijuana.

The Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed on Kanye’s new album

The Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed put up a great review of Kanye West’s new album, Yeezus:

Kanye West is a child of social networking and hip-hop.  And he knows about all kinds of music and popular culture.  The guy has a real wide palette to play with.  That’s all over Yeezus.  There are moments of supreme beauty and greatness on this record, and then some of it is the same old shit.  But the guy really, really, really is talented.  He’s really trying to raise the bar.  No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet.

He gives some great insight into aspects of each song that give a simple breakdown of what Kanye is shooting for. Here’s what he had to say about New Slaves, my favorite song on the album:

There are more contradictions on “New Slaves,” where he says “Fuck you and your Hamptons house.” But God only knows how much he’s spending wherever he is. He’s trying to have it both ways — he’s the upstart but he’s got it all, so he frowns on it. Some people might say that makes him complicated, but it’s not really that complicated. He kind of wants to retain his street cred even though he got so popular. And I think he thinks people are going to think he’s become one of them — so he’s going to very great lengths to claim that he’s not. On “New Slaves,” he’s accusing everyone of being materialistic but you know, when guys do something like that, it’s always like, “But we’re the exception. It’s all those other people, but we know better.”

“New Slaves” has that line “Y’all throwin’ contracts at me/ You know that niggas can’t read.” Wow, wow, wow. That is an amazing thing to put in a lyric. That’s a serious accusation in the middle of this rant at other people: an accusation of himself. As if he’s some piece of shit from the street who doesn’t know nothing. Yeah, right — your mom was a college English professor.

Facebook single-handedly made its home county the best-paid in the nation

Facebook employees made so much money from the company going public last year that it shot San Mateo County, where the company is headquartered, to the top of the charts for highest average weekly income in the nation.

San Mateo average wages rose to a rate equivalent to yearly earnings of $168,000, significantly higher than even New York County, home of Wall Street and several other high-earning industries.

The Wall Street Journal’s Scott Thurm verified that Facebook’s IPO was responsible for the massive increase by looking at the wages by job sector.

He found that the roughly 6,200 “industrial” workers (which Facebook employees count as) earned $6.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012 – which works out to almost $83,000 a week. This lines up with the timing for many Facebook employee’s stock options, which vested in November of last year.

This isn’t the first time that a tech company going public has made a significant number of its employees exceedingly rich. Microsoft compensated many early employees with generous stock options. After a hundredfold increase in its stock price between 1986 and 1996 it was estimated that at least 10,000 “Microsoft millionaires” were created by 2000.

Everyone should fear the police state

Salon has an amazing piece of investigative journalism by Radly Balko about the militarization of the police force in the United States over the last few decades. It’s a bit long, so I excerpted the parts I think everyone should see. If you have the time, I recommend reading the whole story.

A 2009 G-20 summit shows us that we can be arrested for pretty much anything:

The most egregious police actions seemed to take place on the Friday evening before the summit, around the university, when police began ordering students who were in public spaces to disperse, despite the fact that they had broken no laws. Students who moved too slowly were arrested, as were students who were standing in front of the dormitories where they lived.

A University of Pittsburgh spokesman later said that the tactic was to break up crowds that “had the potential of disrupting normal activities, traffic flow, egress and the like. . . . Much of the arrests last night had to do with failure to disperse when ordered.” Note that no one needed to have broken any actual laws to get arrested. The potential to break a law was more than enough. That standard was essentially a license for the police to arrest anyone, anywhere in the city, at any time, for any reason.

“What’s that? Freedom of press you say? ‘Cuff him, Jim.”:

At the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, police conducted peremptory raids on the homes of protesters before the convention had even started. Police broke into the homes of people known to be activist rabble-rousers before they had any evidence of any actual crime. Journalists who inquired about the legitimacy of the raids and arrests made during the convention were also arrested. In all, 672 people were put in handcuffs.

I think we can all agree that matching shirts are cute. Especially when they’re bragging about beating non-violent protestors:

Perhaps the best insight into the mentality the police brought to the DNC protests could be found on the T-shirts the Denver police union had printed up for the event. The shirts showed a menacing cop holding a baton. The caption: DNC 2008: WE GET UP EARLY, TO BEAT THE CROWDS. Police were spotted wearing similar shirts at the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. At the 1996 DNC convention in Chicago, cops were seen wearing shirts that read: WE KICKED YOUR FATHER’S ASS IN 1968 . . . WAIT ’TIL YOU SEE WHAT WE DO TO YOU!

“I don’t care about any of this, the only people who have to worry about the police are criminals.” Or, you know, small business owners:

In June 2006, Ruttenberg filed a civil rights suit alleging that, among other things, using a SWAT team to conduct an alcohol inspection was an unreasonable use of force.  In 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied his claim. So for now, in the Fourth Circuit, sending a SWAT team to make sure a bar’s beer is labeled correctly is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The price of solar is falling faster than experts expected

What Tech Is Next for the Solar Industry?:

The technology that’s surprised almost everyone is conventional crystalline silicon. A few years ago, silicon solar panels cost $4 per watt, and Martin Green, professor at the University of New South Wales and one of the leading silicon solar panel researchers, declared that they’d never go below $1 a watt. “Now it’s down to something like 50 cents of watt, and there’s talk of hitting 36 cents per watt,” he says.

While small changes to the way solar panels are responsible for much of this price drop – things like being able to print the ultra-fine wires used to connect the cells in a panel and cells that can absorb sunlight from both the front and back – the biggest change is going to be the introduction of different semiconductors in the cells themselves:

Even longer-term, Green is betting on silicon, aiming to take advantage of the huge reductions in cost already seen with the technology. He hopes to greatly increase the efficiency of silicon solar panels by combining silicon with one or two other semiconductors, each selected to efficiently convert a part of the solar spectrum that silicon doesn’t convert efficiently. Adding one semiconductor could boost efficiencies from the 20 to 25 percent range to around 40 percent. Adding another could make efficiencies as high as 50 percent feasible, which would cut in half the number of solar panels needed for a given installation.

Failure of ads leading to sponsored articles

Sponsors Now Pay for Online Articles, Not Just Ads:

Advertisers and publishers have many names for this new form of marketing — including branded content, sponsored content and native advertising. Regardless of the name, the strategy of having advertisers sponsor or create content that looks like traditional editorial content has become increasingly common as publishers try to create more sources of revenue.

[…]

Publishers are largely being driven to support the use of sponsored content because of fewer people clicking on banner ads, the abundance of advertising space and other factors make it more difficult to make money from traditional online advertising. As advertising technology becomes more sophisticated, ads can be bought and sold at cheaper rates across the Web. Often they are ignored by the very customers advertisers are trying to reach.

It’s a pretty great deal for both advertisers and publishers. By having their advertisements appear to be regular content, people are willing to share the articles with their social networks. As opposed to banner ads, which people have learned to automatically ignore, this content actually has people telling their friends that they should give it a look:

An article on Google Glass technology was shared almost 2,000 times on social media, indicating that readers may not have cared, or known, if it was journalism or sponsored content, although the series was identified as such.

For publishers, it means less of a reliance on banner ads while still being able to offer content for free (though Forbes and the Washington Post are using both sponsored content and paywalls).

There hasn’t been any major backlash from readers against this rise in sponsored content, so perhaps they don’t care as long as the posts aren’t outright ads.

How to convince science skeptics

A psychology professor at Yale found that when looking at new scientific evidence, we tend to interpret facts through a lens based on our previously held beliefs. With the wrong framing, our brain subconsciously jumps into a defensive mode where we try to rationalize the new information in a way that either makes the information support our preconceptions or pick out the faults so as to not shift our beliefs.

So the key to convincing someone isn’t throwing facts at them, it’s presenting the facts in the context of certain values:

This theory is gaining traction in part because of Kahan’s work at Yale. In one study, he and his colleagues packaged the basic science of climate change into fake newspaper articles bearing two very different headlines—”Scientific Panel Recommends Anti-Pollution Solution to Global Warming” and “Scientific Panel Recommends Nuclear Solution to Global Warming”—and then tested how citizens with different values responded. Sure enough, the latter framing made hierarchical individualists much more open to accepting the fact that humans are causing global warming. Kahan infers that the effect occurred because the science had been written into an alternative narrative that appealed to their pro-industry worldview.

You can follow the logic to its conclusion: Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue. Doing so is, effectively, to signal a détente in what Kahan has called a “culture war of fact.” In other words, paradoxically, you don’t lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance.

 

“I was raped at Disney World and nobody cared”

Dana Wierzbicki was raped by a Disney World coworker after-hours. After figuring out the proper channels to go through to deal with the situation, she met with a counselor provided by the company. The (female!) counselor responded in pretty much the least helpful way imaginable:

I recounted everything that happened that night while the counselor stayed silent and seemed at least mildly sympathetic. When I told her we had been drinking, her face changed from “concerned” to “you made a mistake.”  Still, I told her, I said “no” the entire time and he never listened.  

The first thing she said to me was “Well, now you know not to be hanging around boys in the middle of the night. You know what they want.”

Take a few seconds and re-read that. Now let’s unpack it.

A certified counselor was insinuating that it was my fault that my coworker decided to rape me — as if I should have known better than to interact with any man after dark. Not only that, but she was advising me to approach every interaction with a man as if he is a potential rapist, including every man that works at Disney World. If I react to a man with anything less than hostility after sundown, whatever happens is my fault.