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Zorro

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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,788

Journal Archives

I Visited 47 Sites. Hundreds of Trackers Followed Me.

Earlier this year, an editor working on The Times’s Privacy Project asked me whether I’d be interested in having all my digital activity tracked, examined in meticulous detail and then published — you know, for journalism. “Hahaha,” I said, and then I think I made an “at least buy me dinner first” joke, but it turned out he was serious. What could I say? I’m new here, I like to help, and, conveniently, I have nothing whatsoever at all to hide.

Like a colonoscopy, the project involved some special prep. I had to install a version of the Firefox web browser that was created by privacy researchers to monitor how websites track users’ data. For several days this spring, I lived my life through this Invasive Firefox, which logged every site I visited, all the advertising tracking servers that were watching my surfing and all the data they obtained. Then I uploaded the data to my colleagues at The Times, who reconstructed my web sessions into the gloriously invasive picture of my digital life you see here. (The project brought us all very close; among other things, they could see my physical location and my passwords, which I’ve since changed.)

What did we find? The big story is as you’d expect: that everything you do online is logged in obscene detail, that you have no privacy. And yet, even expecting this, I was bowled over by the scale and detail of the tracking; even for short stints on the web, when I logged into Invasive Firefox just to check facts and catch up on the news, the amount of information collected about my endeavors was staggering.

The session documented here took place on a weekday in June. At the time, I was writing a column about Elizabeth Warren’s policy-heavy political strategy, which involved a lot of Google searches, a lot of YouTube videos, and lots of visits to news sites and sites of the candidates themselves. As soon as I logged on that day, I was swarmed — ad trackers surrounded me, and, identifying me by a 19-digit number I think of as a prisoner tag, they followed me from page to page as I traipsed across the web.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/23/opinion/data-internet-privacy-tracking.html

How Wayne LaPierre Survived a Revolt at the N.R.A.

Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, has confronted threats from all sides this year.

He faced a revolt from the N.R.A.’s top lobbyist, its president, its longtime advertising firm and several board members and donors that quickly became public. New documents reviewed by The New York Times show that the effort against him was even wider in scope, drawing in three outside law firms working for the N.R.A. and at least one in-house attorney. A wave of embarrassing leaks showed that Mr. LaPierre billed a contractor hundreds of thousands of dollars for bespoke suits and foreign travel, as well as some of his wife’s makeup costs.

Then this month, two mass shootings galvanized the gun control movement and prompted President Trump to float the possibility of expanded background checks, which is anathema to the gun lobby.

But Mr. LaPierre, who has run the N.R.A. since 1991, has so far survived all of the internal challenges. And he has continued to successfully advance his group’s uncompromising agenda. This week he appeared to personally persuade Mr. Trump to resist significant measures sought by Democrats and gun control advocates.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/politics/nra-guns-wayne-lapierre.html

Huawei Warns Trump: 'If You Want To Stop Us, You Need To Try Harder'

The impact of the U.S. blacklisting is less than feared, and Huawei is fully prepared to deal with the restrictions for a long time to come. That was the message given to reporters at an event at the company's HQ in Shenzhen on Friday [August 23]. Although, of course, the real audience was not the assembled media but the Trump administration—thousands of miles away in Washington—as the battle of wills continues.

The statements were made at a launch event for the company's new Ascend 910 AI chip—intended to rival the likes of Qualcomm and Nvidia. "The Ascend 910 has more computing power than any other AI processor in the world," the company said in a statement. And the backdrop is, of course, Huawei's ongoing program to break its reliance on U.S. tech that is restricted under its blacklisting.

A further 90-day reprieve was formalised by the Commerce Department this week, but all signs (currently) point to a full lockdown in November, and an additional 46 Huawei "affiliates" have been added to the entity list this week, making the existing restrictions harder to deal with. The extension provides Huawei with three further months of (some level of) supply chain surety—time enough to launch its next smartphones and to continue development of its "Plan B."

"We’re giving [customers] a little more time to wean themselves off [Huawei]," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explained. "But no specific licenses are being granted for anything." Adding later that "as we continue to urge consumers to transition away from Huawei’s products, we recognize that more time is necessary to prevent any disruption."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/08/23/huawei-to-trump-if-you-want-to-stop-us-you-need-to-work-much-harder-than-this/

Anti-vaxxers can't traffic in violent language then claim ignorance when someone gets hurt

Perhaps the assault on state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) Wednesday by a professed anti-vaccination advocate was inevitable.

In the four years that the pediatrician-turned-politician has been working to raise the state’s flagging vaccination rates, he’s been the target of such fierce anger from anti-vaccination advocates that their rhetoric at times crossed the line from harsh into violent. Pan has received death threats and been heckled and cursed in committee meetings. He’s been compared to Adolf Hitler and Nazi doctor Josef Mengele at protests and rallies, where his face has been printed on T-shirts and signs covered with splattered blood. Opponents speak and tweet ominously about “war” and having their weapons ready to fight tyranny. They warn that Pan’s bills — SB 277 in 2015 and SB 276 currently pending before the state Legislature — will kill kids.

It’s absurd considering that what Pan is trying to do is keep children from contracting measles and other deadly diseases by stopping their misinformed parents from finding ways around the state’s mandatory public school vaccinations. Pan’s SB 277 ended exemptions from the mandate based on personal or religious beliefs after a measles outbreak at Disneyland in 2015 exposed a dangerous dip in the state’s rates of childhood vaccinations. And SB 276, which comes up for a crucial vote next week, would clamp down on exemptions granted for spurious medical reasons, which have been rising since the loss of other exemptions. Both of the bills are in the best interest of public safety because vaccinations are unquestionably safer than the diseases they protect against.

We’re grateful that this was a relatively mild incident. An agitated man by the name of Austin Bennett confronted Pan on camera as he walked down a Sacramento street and then, frustrated by Pan’s dismissal of his bizarre questions (“Would you drink aluminum?”), whacked the senator on the back of the head as Pan walked away.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-08-22/anti-vaxxer-attack-richard-pan

The GOP has a political and economic death-grip over Democrats

An exploding federal budget deficit can spell political trouble for the White House and opportunity for the opposition party as a presidential election approaches. But this week’s announcement that the annual deficit is expected to surpass $1 trillion for much of the coming decade may actually put more pressure on Democratic challengers than on President Trump.

It’s a sign of how much Trump’s presidency has upended the traditional economic and political philosophies of the two major parties. Now it falls to Democratic candidates vying to oust Trump to explain to voters how their policies would curb the mounting deficit — or, in the alternative, why the deficit doesn’t matter. And it’s not enough to simply point their fingers at Republicans and say, “Why should we care if they don’t?”

The budget deficit is the gap between the amount the government collects in taxes and other sources of revenue and how much it spends in any given fiscal year. That’s different from, although it adds to, the national debt, which is the nation’s cumulative unpaid balance and currently exceeds $22 trillion. The last time the federal deficit exceeded $1 trillion was in 2012, when the economy was still shaking off the effects of the last recession.

Deficits aren’t a bad thing if they’re relatively small and don’t grow faster than the U.S. economy, or if the spending is needed to offset a downturn. But operating with the current level of red ink will arguably make it harder for Congress to respond when recession strikes again. Meanwhile, an ever-larger share of the budget is being eaten up by interest payments on the accumulated debt, a problem that will become nightmarish if interest rates shoot back up to the double-digit levels of the late-1970s.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-08-22/trump-deficit-democratic-candidates

Woman stabbed man with fork after demanding payment for 'hanging out'

A woman allegedly stabbed a man in the leg with a fork Thursday night in Chula Vista after they disagreed over whether he owed her money for spending time with him, police said.

The man told investigators he and the woman were “just hanging out” and he “didn’t realize she was an escort” who expected to be paid, Chula Vista police Lt. Scott Adkins said.

The man’s injury was minor, and he refused medical attention.

Police took an assault report from the victim after responding to the stabbing around 8:30 p.m., Adkins said. It happened at a residence on Monte Vista Avenue in north Chula Vista, between Fifth and Fourth avenues and C and D streets.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/story/2019-08-22/cvpd-woman-stabbed-man-with-fork-after-demanding-payment-for-hanging-out-with-him

Looks like "hanging out" can be hazardous to your health these days.

The Trump presidency is not just unfolding, it is unraveling

Historians studying the Trump presidency will have a prodigious amount of digital material that demands examination but defies explanation. The president’s Aug. 21, half-hour, South Lawn press availability deserves to be at the top of that list.

With the whir of a helicopter engine in the background, President Trump veered from topic to topic with utter confidence, alarming ignorance, minimal coherence and relentless duplicity.

President Vladimir Putin, he said, “made a living on outsmarting President Obama” — even though it is Trump who now urges a Russian return to the Group of Seven summit without any concessions on Putin’s part.

On pursuing the trade war with China, Trump called himself the “chosen one.” This came within hours of tweeting a quote that he is loved like “the second coming of God.” At some point, arrogance is so extreme and delusional that it can only be expressed in blasphemy.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-presidency-is-not-just-unfolding-it-is-unraveling/2019/08/22/98c49b3e-c513-11e9-b72f-b31dfaa77212_story.html

Endangered panthers are stumbling as though they've been poisoned and scientists don't know why

A mother panther walks into frame and pauses. She looks around, ears alert. One of her cubs appears and looks healthy and strong. Then her other cub stumbles into the frame and falls to the ground. The young cat doesn’t have full control of its hind legs — as if a neurological disease, or even poisoning, is making the cub dangerously sick and vulnerable to attack.

At least 10 panthers and bobcats in Florida are having (or had) trouble walking, and wildlife experts don’t know why. Two cats died recently from other causes, but scientists confirmed they, too, were suffering from whatever is going around. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is monitoring the status of the cats on trail cameras.

The list of possible panther and bobcat afflictions is long. Researchers are testing for infectious diseases, nutritional deficiencies, exposure to heavy metals and multiple toxins including rat poison and toxic algae.

The FWC always completes necropsies — autopsies for animals — even if they already know the cause of the panther’s death, said Mark Cunningham, a veterinarian at the commission. On Wednesday, researchers examined the two dead cats and tested for toxins and contaminants. The bobcat was injured during a fight and subsequently was hit by a vehicle. The panther was euthanized after she was injured by a vehicle and contracted an infection, Cunningham said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/08/21/endangered-panthers-are-stumbling-like-theyve-been-poisoned-scientists-dont-know-why/

In the Trump Era, a Family's Fight With Google and Facebook Over Disinformation

Each day, in an office outside Phoenix, a team of young writers and editors curates reality.

In the America presented on their news and opinion website, WesternJournal.com, tradition-minded patriots face ceaseless assault by anti-Christian bigots, diseased migrants and race hustlers concocting hate crimes. Danger and outrages loom. A Mexican politician threatens the “takeover” of several American states. Police officers are kicked out of an Arizona Starbucks. Kamala Harris, the Democratic presidential candidate, proposes a “$100 billion handout” for black families.

The Western Journal is not quite a household name. Until recently, some of its most prolific writers used pseudonyms. Though it publishes scores of stories each week about national politics, the company has no Washington bureau, or any other bureaus. Indeed, it rarely dispatches reporters into the world to gather news firsthand.

In the parallel universe of Facebook, though, The Western Journal has been among the most popular and influential publications in America, shaping the political beliefs of more than 36 million deeply loyal readers and followers. In the three years ending in March, according to a New York Times analysis, Western Journal’s Facebook posts earned three-quarters of a billion shares, likes and comments, almost as many as the combined tally of 10 leading American news organizations that together employ thousands of reporters and editors.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/us/facebook-disinformation-floyd-brown.html

Delay in Rep. Duncan Hunter's criminal case puts crimp in GOP primary calendar

Republicans have taken a wait-and-see approach as Rep. Duncan Hunter’s criminal case works its way through the courts.

Now some candidates are saying the party may no longer have that luxury.

Last week, a federal judge changed Hunter’s trial date from Sept. 10 to Jan. 14, making a difficult situation worse for a Republican Party hoping to hold onto its last seat in San Diego’s congressional delegation.

Hunter, R-Alpine, was indicted in August 2018 along with his wife and former campaign manager, Margaret, on 60 counts of stealing $250,000 of campaign funds. Authorities say Hunter’s campaign money was spent on family vacations, groceries, fast food, extramarital affairs and other non-campaign expenses.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/story/2019-08-21/rep-duncan-hunters-drawn-out-legal-battle-complicates-things-for-republicans
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