Author Archive | Breshvic

DNC and Net Neutrality

Picture: Elizabeth Cromwell (CC)

Though the Republicans seem content to either ignore scientific and technological progress, or move us backwards to the “Good Old Days,” it bears mentioning that the Democrats aren’t much better at answering the serious questions posed at this time of rapid change and development.

At least they aren’t totally ignoring issues like net neutrality, but addressing and then “vigorously” glossing over them with obfuscatory language and corporate messaging.

Via Ars Technica:

Last week, the Republicans called for “vigorous enforcement of current laws on all forms of pornography and obscenity,” as well as the preservation of the ban on online gambling. The Democrats are silent on pornography and gambling, but they make the case for “vigorous” copyright enforcement efforts.

“The administration is vigorously protecting US intellectual property,” the new Democratic platform declares, through “better enforcement and innovative approaches such as voluntary efforts by all parties to minimize infringement while supporting the free flow of information.” That’s a reference to things like the “graduated response” system in which ISPs would penalize their users if they were accused of copyright infringement six times.

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Robot learns ‘self-awareness’

Picture: Flickr user (((o.kvlt))) (CC)

Instead of being pre-programmed with experiential knowledge, a robot named Nico is learning the relationships of its grippers and sensors, space and environment.

Nico may be slowly approaching self-awareness, and its programmers are utilizing an even better test than the Turing Test. The ‘Mirror Test‘, the same one that we humans believe separates us (as well as elephants, magpies, orcas, dolphins and the great apes) from other tested species, by showing that we can both use the mirror as a tool to explore a reflected environment, and recognize that our reflections are indeed of ourselves.

Via Kurzweil AI:

Using knowledge that it has learned about itself, Nico is able to use a mirror as an instrument for spatial reasoning, allowing it to accurately determine where objects are located in space based on their reflections, rather than naively believing them to exist behind the mirror.

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Hiroshima, the Original Ground Zero

This month marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of the mass destruction the United States wrought on the civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And though it is often framed through the lens of 'bringing an end to WWII's bloody Pacific front', the harsh images and stories of survival after the blasts reveal some of the most horrific realities of war and devastation any nation has ever had to face. Last year, the International Center of Photography exhibited many of the 1,100 images taken by the Physical Damage Division of the United States Bombing Survey in 1945. They have over 700 photos in their collection, and a new book published by Steidl:
After the United States detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the U.S. government restricted the circulation of images of the bomb's deadly effect. President Truman dispatched some 1,150 military personnel and civilians, including photographers, to record the destruction as part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The goal of the Survey's Physical Damage Division was to photograph and analyze methodically the impact of the atomic bomb on various building materials surrounding the blast site, the first "Ground Zero." The haunting, once-classified images of absence and annihilation formed the basis for civil defense architecture in the United States.
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The Left Doesn’t Need a Rand and the Right Shouldn’t Want Another Reagan

Picture: Wikimedia Commons (CC)

Jeff Madrick, (Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow, Director of the Rediscovering Government initiative and author of Age of Greed), has typed a scathing indictment of those glossy false icons on the right, while at the same time warning against blind hero worship and succumbing to demagoguery on the left. We know that the philosophies of historical figures like Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand turned out to be toxic, even to those in the lower classes who still idolize them, but Madrick argues that their memories have been obfuscated by myth.

via The Next New Deal:

The right then goes on to mythologize and entirely distort the Reagan years. Under Reagan in the 1980s, wages stopped growing, productivity grew at historically slow rates, investment was soft, and the deficit never came down to the levels promised. That deficit was an albatross around the neck of George H.W.

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America’s Student Debt Crisis

Picture: j.o.h.n. walker (CC)

Student debt activists and education advocates Kyle McCarthy and Natalia Abrams are tired of the ‘silence and complacency’ that our elected (and duly bribed) officials exhibit in the face of overwhelming evidence of usury and millions of voices of the disaffected. At least two out of three of students take out loans for college and at least 1 out of 5 of those will default.

Via Huffington Post:

Since 1978, college tuition has skyrocketed by over 900%, while simultaneously, grants and scholarships continue to be slashed. The result? Students are forced to mortgage their futures with student debt, from which there is no escape. In 2010, student debt actually eclipsed credit card debt as the second largest consumer debt in the country (second only to mortgage debt, surpassing $1 trillionin total). The Atlantic recently reported that, since 1999, student debt has increased by 511%.

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Flavors of Uncertainty: The Difference between Denial and Debate

Picture: Wikimedia Commons (CC)

It seems only fair for journalism to examine every side of an issue, but what if a controversy isn’t a legitimate debate, but specifically created for the purposes of confusion and bias? Industry, politicians and religions manufacture misinformation, which is caught in the echo chamber of our lazy, uncritical mainstream media, and filtered to a harried general populace, who are often more concerned with ethical considerations than scientific nuances anyway. Corporate advertisers engage in ‘organized doubt’ campaigns, essentially changing what science and skepticism are all about.

via Environmental Health Perspectives:

In one of the keynote talks at the Science Writing in the Age of Denial Conference, UW–Madison genetics and molecular biology professor Sean Carroll outlined what he calls “a general manual of denialism”—six tactics used time and again in denial campaigns since at least the nineteenth century. First, cast doubt on the science. Second, question the personal motives and integrity of the scientists.

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Time Wars

Picture: Alan Cleaver (CC)

Science fiction is tackling the issue of economic inequality using the metaphor of rationed time and mortality. Radical blogger and professor of ‘cultural analysis’ Mark Fisher doesn’t see this as too far from the truth.

His writing examines autonomy, workerism, post-Marxism, post-Fordism, punk, post-punk, neoliberalism, new atheism and anarchism. As fear of losing one’s job, debt closing in, mortality, apocalypse, the devastating end of capitalism or Malthusian collapse tick away in our background, all of us feel that constant tremor, further emphasized by the endless updates to our devices, making us addicted to our own anxiety. Society stalls and experimental innovation is crushed under the systemic pressure of time constraints. As he writes:  “Given all of this, it is clear that most political struggles at the moment amount to a war over time.

Via Gonzo Circus:

For most workers, there is no such thing as the long term.

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14 Wacky “Facts” Kids Will Learn in Louisiana’s Voucher Schools

Picture: Scott Kinmartin (CC)

Thanks to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindall’s extensive voucher program (which many other Republicans want to establish on state and national levels), state funds will go towards indoctrinating youth with religious programming in privatized education centers. Taxpayers will dish out an anti-science message in texts and teaching materials, all under the guise of helping the poor and middle-income students. And they’ll be learning some pretty ridiculous nonsense, served up as facts (and not faith).

Won’t somebody please think of the children!?

via Deanna Pan at Mother Jones:

  1. Dinosaurs and humans probably hung out: “Bible-believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side within the past few thousand years.”—Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007
  2. Dragons were totally real: “[Is] it possible that a fire-breathing animal really existed?
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Demonoid Domain Names Now Up For Sale

If any of you intrepid Demonoid users out there have been wondering what has become of your most trusted torrent site (even their affable ‘site down’ page went missing) after the DDoS attack and alleged raid last week, it turns out that things may be worse than we expected.

via David Murphy at PCMag:

The Demonoid domain names are now officially for sale via Sedo, the final nail in the coffin for the popular site that was taken down via a combined assault from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and Interpol.

Inquiries and investigations spanned both Ukraine and Mexico, arriving in the wake of a distributed denial of service attack that kept Demonoid offline for a week or so prior to authorities going after Demonoid’s hosting and leadership.

“The operation to close Demonoid was a great example of international cooperation to tackle a service that was facilitating the illegal distribution of music on a vast scale.

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