WaPo published Trump hotel data removed from GSA website

beSpacific - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 19:37

“On Thursday [August 10, 2017] afternoon, three documents providing detailed financial information about President Trump’s D.C. hotel could be found posted on the website of the General Services Administration. Later that night, they were gone. What happened? First, some background. The hotel is in the Old Post Office Pavilion, a government-owned property managed by the GSA. Under a 2013 deal between the GSA and the Trump Organization, the company sends the government $3 million in base rent and a share of profits beyond a certain threshold. The deal requires the Trump Organization to share its financial information with the government on a routine basis. [How the Trump hotel changed Washington’s culture of influence] Sharing that data might normally be a matter of little controversy, but this project now falls well outside the boundaries of normal. Trump is president, he is still benefiting financially from the hotel, and congressional Democrats, ethical experts, government watchdogs and competing hotels aren’t happy about it. The documents show the hotel’s financial performance in February, March and April of this year, as well as year-to-date totals, offering far more information about the hotel’s operations than previous disclosures. Up until Thursday, the GSA had only posted heavily redacted versions of the “monthly statement certificates” providing no financial information. The Washington Post decided to publish the documents, which it downloaded before they were removed. They are below.

February performance.
March performance.
April performance.”

Categories: Research

Another view on the Google book scanning project

beSpacific - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 19:26

What Happened to Google’s Effort to Scan Millions of University Library Books?: “…many librarians and scholars see the legacy of the project differently. In fact, academics now regularly tap into the reservoir of digitized material that Google helped create, using it as a dataset they can query, even if they can’t consume full texts. It’s a pillar of the humanities’ growing engagement with Big Data….That rich resource has been put to several good uses. Through the HathiTrust Research Center, scholars can tap into the Google Books corpus and conduct computational analysis—looking for patterns in large amounts of text, for instance—without breaching copyright. And print-disabled users can use assistive technologies to read scanned books that might otherwise be difficult if not impossible to find in accessible formats…”

Categories: Research

Exiting the largest U.S. cities at rush hour can be an colossal challenge

beSpacific - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 19:18

Want to get away? Here’s how far you can get if you leave the largest U.S. cities at rush hour. Imagine that it’s a Friday afternoon on a perfect summer day and you’re ready to escape the city. Just how fast could you get out? If you picked up your keys and hit the road, here’s where you could end up.”

Categories: Research

Removal of animal welfare data from USDA site sparks FOIA requests

beSpacific - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 19:16

Follow up to previous postings – DOJ defends USDA take-down of massive animal abuse database; Durbin Demands Trump Administration Restore Animal Cruelty; and Animal welfare information wiped from USDA website – see updated status on this matter: People who care about animal welfare are demanding information from USDA – “The Agriculture Department abruptly removed all animal welfare reports from its website in February, sparking public outcry, denouncements from Congress and a lawsuit. Six months later, we’re no closer to understanding exactly why the reports were taken down or when all might be restored. But recently published information shows one result of the records sweep: The agency has been inundated with Freedom of Information Act requests for the documents, which include inspection and enforcement records about the treatment of animals at more than 10,000 dog-breeding operations, research labs, roadside zoos and other facilities. The USDA has cited privacy concerns and litigation for its decision to remove the online records. They were regularly accessed by animal protection advocates, who used them to monitor government enforcement of animal welfare laws, as well as by pet vendors, journalists and researchers. The agency says it has since restored thousands of the inspection and annual reports to the website, but many more — including all inspections of dog breeders and show-horse events regulated by the Horse Protection Act — remain available only through a FOIA request, which can take months or years to be approved…”

Categories: Research

Google – Understand Electricity Generation Choose

beSpacific - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 19:07

Google Energy Strategies: “The goal of the Climate and Energy team in Google Research is to find abundant energy for everyone on the planet. We cannot reach this goal based on today’s fossil fuel technology, because the atmosphere can only absorb a limited amount of CO2 in the near-term. At the current rate CO2 production from combustion, humans will pass the limit for 2℃ average warming in less than 27 years. To reach the goal of abundant energy for everyone, we need to find a source of zero- (or very-low-) carbon electricity that is available 24×7 for all of world’s needs. Energy is an important part of the world economy: collectively, we spend about $6 trillion dollars a year on it. If we had a zero-carbon 24×7 source of electricity that was much more expensive than fossil fuels are today, then we would not reach the goal of abundant energy for everyone. Such an expensive solution will not give the benefits of plentiful energy to billions of people on the planet. What is the least expensive way to decarbonize electricity? Many analysts have come up with different answers to this question: 100% renewables plus storage, nuclear power, sequestering carbon from fossil fuels, or a mixture of these. At Google, we realized that the different answers came from different assumptions that people were making about the future of technology and policies. To help us understand, we created this tool that allows us to quickly see how different assumptions affect the future cost to generate electricity and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted…”

Categories: Research

20 EU countries see rise in modern slavery risks – Study

beSpacific - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 18:59

“Modern slavery risks have risen in nearly three quarters of the 28 member states of the European Union over the last year, reveals an annual study from global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. According to the 2nd edition of the Modern Slavery Index (MSI), the five EU countries posing the highest risk are Romania, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria – key entry points for migrants into the region who are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. The research, which assesses 198 countries on the strength of their laws, the effectiveness of their enforcement and the severity of violations, shows drops in the scores for 20 countries across the block. The slavery situation in Romania is deemed as deteriorating worse than any country globally, with it falling 56 places in the ranking to 66th highest risk. Romania and Italy (ranked 133rd), which fell 16 places, have the worst reported violations in the EU, including severe forms of forced labour, such as servitude and trafficking. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that over 100,000 migrants have entered Europe by sea in 2017; 85% of which have landed in Italy. Arrivals in Greece (129th) have fallen dramatically since the 2016 signing of the EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement, but the country, which dropped 17 places in the index, is host to significant numbers of migrants and remains a key destination for human trafficking. According to Verisk Maplecroft, the presence of these vulnerable migrant populations in the primary countries of arrival is a key contributor for increases in slavery across multiple sectors in the region, such as agriculture, construction and services…Even the EU’s biggest economies are not immune to the rise in slavery risk. Germany and the UK have seen slight negative shifts in their scores, taking them just over the ‘low risk’ threshold into the ‘medium risk’ category of the index. New data has revealed gaps in the UK’s labour inspectorate, while Germany has experienced an uptick in recorded trafficking and servitude violations…”

Categories: Research

269 People Joined An Age Discrimination Class Action Suit Against Google

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 10:14
Slashdot reader #9,119 BrookHarty writes: "269 people have joined a class-action lawsuit against Google claiming they were discriminated against in the workplace based on their age..." reports BizJournals. "The lawsuit originated in 2015 with plaintiff Robert Heath and was certified as a class-action in 2016." Google has stated it has implemented policies to stop age discrimination but still has an average employee age of 29. In 2004 Larry Page fired Brian Reid nine days before IPO costing Reid 45 million in unvested stock options. Reid was fired for lack of "cultural fit". Reid has settled for an undisclosed amount.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Russian Group That Hacked DNC Used NSA Attack Code In Attack On Hotels

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 09:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A Russian government-sponsored group accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee last year has likely been infecting other targets of interest with the help of a potent Windows exploit developed by, and later stolen from, the National Security Agency, researchers said Friday. Eternal Blue, as the exploit is code-named, is one of scores of advanced NSA attacks that have been released over the past year by a mysterious group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. It was published in April in the group's most damaging release to date. Its ability to spread from computer to computer without any user action was the engine that allowed the WCry ransomware worm, which appropriated the leaked exploit, to shut down computers worldwide in May. Eternal Blue also played a role in the spread of NotPetya, a follow-on worm that caused major disruptions in June. Now, researchers at security firm FireEye say they're moderately confident the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear, APT 28, and other names has also used Eternal Blue, this time in a campaign that targeted people of interest as they connected to hotel Wi-Fi networks. In July, the campaign started using Eternal Blue to spread from computer to computer inside various staff and guest networks, company researchers Lindsay Smith and Ben Read wrote in a blog post. While the researchers didn't directly observe those attacks being used to infect guest computers connected to the network, they said a related campaign from last year used the control of hotel Wi-Fi services to obtain login credentials from guest devices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Uber and Lyft May Cause Lower Car Ownership In Big Cities, Says Report

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 06:00
A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has shed light on what may turn out to be a growing trend: lower car ownership in cities where ride-sharing services are available. SlashGear reports: While Uber and Lyft have both deployed in a number of cities, they have, at times, had to abandon those cities due to local governments driving them out for one reason or another. That's what happened in Austin, Texas, opening the door for an interesting study on personal car ownership. Did the sudden absence of these two services cause increased car usage and/or ownership, or did things remain unaffected? The result, according to the study, was a big increase in personal car usage and a statistically significant increase in car ownership. The researchers surveyed a total of 1,200 people from the Austin region, and found that 41-percent of them started using their own car more often to make up for the lack of Uber and Lyft rides. As well, a total of 9-percent of those surveyed bought their own personal car to make up for the services' absences.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

FBI Says Islamic State Used eBay, PayPal To Channel Money To the US

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 23:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Islamic State allegedly used PayPal and fake eBay transactions to channel money to an operative in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. The man who allegedly received the money was American citizen Mohamed Elshinawy, who was arrested last year in Maryland. The FBI claims that Elshinawy, in his early 30s, sold computer printers on eBay as a front in order to receive the payments through PayPal. The details have come to light because of a recently unsealed FBI affidavit, which alleges Elshinawy was part of a worldwide network that used such channels to fund ISIS. Elshinawy received $8,700 from ISIS, including five PayPal payments from senior ISIS official Siful Sujan through his technology company. Those funds were used to buy a laptop, a cellphone, and a VPN to communicate with IS, according to the affidavit. Sujan was killed in a drone strike in 2015. eBay told The Wall Street Journal it "has zero tolerance for criminal activities taking place on our marketplace." Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for PayPal said it "invests significant time and resources in working to prevent terrorist activity on our platform. We proactively report suspicious activities and respond quickly to lawful requests to support law enforcement agencies in their investigations."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Silicon Valley Billionaire Fails To Prevent Access To Public Beach

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 21:25
Robotron23 writes: Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, has lost his appeal to privatize Martins Beach -- a publicly-owned strip of coastline in California. Having previously fenced off the land in a bid to render the area private, Khosla has been ordered to restore access by a California court. Khosla had previously demanded the government pay him $30 million to reopen the gate to the beachfront. The law of California states that all beaches should be open to the public up to the "mean high tide line." "The decision this week, affirming a lower court ruling, stems from a lawsuit filed by the Surfrider Foundation, a not-for-profit group that says the case could have broader implications for beach access across the U.S.," reports The Guardian.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Petition of the day

SCOTUS Blog - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 18:22

The petition of the day is:

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky 16-1435

Issue: Whether Minnesota statute § 211B.11, which broadly bans all political apparel at the polling place, is facially overbroad under the First Amendment.

The post Petition of the day appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

FCC Extends Net Neutrality Comment Period By Two Weeks

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 18:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: You'll have two extra weeks to file your thoughts with the FCC on its plan to get rid of net neutrality. The proposal's comment period was originally scheduled to end next week, on August 16th, but the commission just pushed the date out to August 30th. The extension was granted in response to 10 groups asking for more time to respond. They had been looking for an additional eight weeks, but the commission said an additional two weeks would be more in line with the type of extensions granted in the past. The commission didn't signal that disruptions to its filing system, caused by an apparent DDOS attack, factored into the decision at all. Granting a two week extension gives people more time to file "reply comments," which are meant to respond to what people filed during the first phase of the comment period, which closed in July. That comment period had been much longer than usual, because the commission released the proposal a month before it was voted on.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Veterans Affairs Response to Alleged Whistleblowers Still Worrying

Project On Government Oversight - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 16:49
The firing of the Washington, D.C. veterans’ medical center director provides the first test of a new Department of Veterans Affairs accountability and whistleblower protection law.
Categories: Research

Surprise dismissal of bankruptcy case seemingly prompted by change in claim ownership

SCOTUS Blog - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 15:29

On Thursday, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of dismissing PEM Entities v. Levin, a bankruptcy case that had been scheduled to be heard this coming term. Occasionally, the court dismisses previously granted cases as “improvidently granted” before reaching the merits. This can happen when a party shifts its argument in its merits brief, when it becomes clear that a dispute is highly fact-bound, or when the justices discover that the case involves so-called “vehicle problems” that may prevent the court from reaching the merits.

Such dismissals are fairly rare, but yesterday’s was particularly unusual, because it came merely six weeks after the grant and before the parties had filed their briefs on the merits. As is customary, the court’s order did not explain the reasoning behind the dismissal. The dismissal appears, however, to have been prompted by a joint motion that was filed on July 21 by the petitioner, PEM Entities, and another party, Province Grande Olde Liberty, LLC, which was attempting to step into the shoes of the respondents. This being a bankruptcy case, the various parties and their relative interests were already quite complex; post-grant changes to those interests revealed in the motion appear to have spooked the court.

PEM Entities had purchased a large secured claim against PGOL at a steep discount, after PGOL had defaulted on the loan. Although PGOL was in default, PEM Entities did not move to foreclose on the loan immediately. PGOL was nonetheless unable to resolve its financial distress and ultimately filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, with its sole asset – a golf course and accompanying development – encumbered by PEM’s loan. The respondents in the Supreme Court, Eric M. Levin and Howard Shareff, were junior claims-holders who could recover from the bankruptcy estate only if the court did not treat PEM Entities’ loan as secured debt. Accordingly, Levin and Shareff brought an adversary proceeding against PEM Entities and PGOL seeking to “recharacterize” PEM Entities’ secured claim as equity. Although it was named as a defendant, PGOL, as the debtor facing the loss of its only asset to its secured creditor, unsurprisingly did not oppose Levin and Shareff’s recharacterization claim and did not participate in the appellate process.

The bankruptcy court, following precedent of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, applied a “federal test” for recharacterizing the claim, which allowed it to consider both the discounted price at which PEM Entities purchased the loan as well as the fact that PEM Entities had decided not to foreclose immediately upon default. A number of other federal courts of appeals apply state-law-based tests for recharacterization that consider different factors. The district court and the 4th Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s ruling based on precedent. PEM Entities filed a petition for certiorari; with an acknowledged circuit split over the competing tests for recharacterization, the case was a logical grant.

But, as is typical of bankruptcy cases, the particular dispute between the parties that formed the basis of the petition for certiorari was only one of several disputes among competing groups of claimants. After the case was granted, a member of PGOL acquired Levin and Shareff’s financial interest in the case as part of the settlement of a different case in state court. That settlement gave PGOL the right to defend Levin and Shareff’s recharacterization claim. That is, although it was originally one of the defendants in the case, PGOL, the debtor, assumed the plaintiff’s position in the dispute that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear. Just shy of a month after the Supreme Court granted the petition, PEM Entities and PGOL filed a joint “Motion to Confirm Party Status” explaining this change and asking the court “to confirm that PGOL … is a respondent in [the case], with a right to defend in this Court the judgment of the court of appeals.”

Although the parties changed, the merits of the case remained the same; PGOL appeared ready to champion the position that the court had been expecting the original respondents, Levin and Shareff, to take. Nonetheless, the court appeared to find the unexpected change a reason to dismiss the writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court seems to have become particularly wary of vehicle problems in recent years – as exemplified by a relatively new policy of relisting cases before granting certiorari noted on this blog by John Elwood. The justices seem to have decided that this case was not worth the risk of hearing argument if there was some chance it might have to be dismissed later.

Whether or not they intended it, the original respondents may have found a clever way to preserve their victory below: They made the case an intolerably complex vehicle after PEM Entities had prevailed in obtaining certiorari. Given how common and easy it is for parties in bankruptcy cases to sell their interests in particular claims, it remains to be seen whether this technique could become an effective strategy respondents in future bankruptcy cases can use to defeat certiorari after a grant.

The post Surprise dismissal of bankruptcy case seemingly prompted by change in claim ownership appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

Uber Shareholder Group Wants Benchmark Off Board

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 15:00
Dan Primack, reporting for Axios: A group of Uber investors has asked that venture capital firm Benchmark step down from the company's board of directors, Axios has learned. It also wants Benchmark to divest enough shares so as to no longer have board appointment rights. The move comes one day after Benchmark sued former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for fraud, in an attempt to have him removed from the board. From the letter: Mr. Kalanick's resignation, along with other concessions, on a few hours' notice and within weeks of a personal tragedy, under threat of public scandal. Even less so your escalation of this fratricidal course -- notwithstanding Mr. Kalanick's resignation -- through your recent lawsuit, which we fear will cost the company public goodwill, interfere with fundraising and impede the critical search for a new, world-class Chief Executive Officer. Benchmark has used false allegations from lawsuits like Waymo as a matter of fact and this and many actions has crossed the fiduciary line. Benchmark's investment of $27M is worth $8.4 billion today and you are suing the founder, the company and the employees who worked so hard to create such unprecedented value. We ask you to please consider the lives of these employees and allow them to continue to grow this company in peace and make it thrive. These actions do the opposite.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Take 40% OFF Naomi Klein's No Is Not Enough

Hay Market Books - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 14:48

To celebrate 5 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, we're offering 40% OFF of Naomi Klein's new book, No Is Not Enough. Each paperback purchase also includes a free bundled e-book.

If you've been waiting to read it, now is the time! If you've already read it, pick up a copy for a friend, a relative, a comrade, or a co-worker. Please also help us spread the word by writing a short review on Goodreads and Amazon.

"Klein moves beyond mere outrage and hand-wringing to offer a practical manifesto for opposition.”
Financial Times

"A blueprint for combating Trumpism and the corporatist policies of his predecessors that made his rise possible. With a genuine sense of hope, Naomi Klein illuminates paths to collectively forge an ecologically sound, anticapitalist order.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"In No Is Not Enough, Naomi Klein anatomises the roots of Trump in the already dystopian world of corporate-ruled America and predicts the “end run around democracy”. A clear and readable guide to action, if it is action you are contemplating.”
–Paul Mason, The Guardian


Also Available: The Stop Trump Reading List from Haymarket Books


Categories: Research

The U.S. Working Class Has a Radical History

Hay Market Books - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 14:48

In a speech to the plenary session of the Socialism Conference in Chicago in July, Sharon Smith, Haymarket author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism: Class, Race and Capital, urged a new generation of radicals and socialists to rediscover the radical history of the U.S. working class.

She said:

"The history of the socialist movement and the class struggle in the U.S. is barely mentioned in history classes at school--not because the teachers refuse to teach it, but because their lesson plans are scripted from on high by those who have an interest in maintaining the capitalist system. They don't want us to know about it in case it gives us any ideas about doing something similar.

In reality, the U.S. working class possesses a tradition that has, at certain key points, led the world working class in its heroism and combativity."

"The socialist history they hide from us"

Our mission at Haymarket Books is to keep alive that radical history. Here we present a short list of Haymarket Books on the labor and socialist movements in the United States, including biographies of radicals like Lucy Parsons and Eugene V. Debs, historic strikes by Latin@ and Black workers, and contemporary accounts of low-wage and domestic worker organizing:

Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States
 by Sharon Smith

Rank & File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers by Alice Lynd and Staughton Lynd

The Labor Wars: From the Molly Maguires to the Sit Downs by Sidney Lens

The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs by Ray Ginger

Detroit: I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin

Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary by Carolyn Ashbaugh

In Solidarity: Essays on Working-Class Organization and Strategy in the United States by Kim Moody

The Letters of Joe Hill, edited by Philip S. Foner with Alexis Buss

A Short History of the U.S. Working Class by Paul Le Blanc

Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy by Grace Chang

Poor Workers' Unions: Rebuilding Labor from Below by Vanessa Tait

Song of the Stubborn One Thousand: The Watsonville Canning Strike, 1985-87 by Peter Shapiro

Revolution in Seattle by Harvey O'Connor

The American Socialist Movement: 1897-1912 by Ira Kipnis


No One Is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence at the U.S.-Mexico Border by Justin Akers Chacón and Mike Davis

For Young People: 101 Changemakers: The Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History, edited by Michele Bollinger and Dao X. Tran


Categories: Research

Naomi Klein US Tour June 10-22 / No Is Not Enough

Hay Market Books - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 14:48


Join internationally acclaimed journalist and bestselling author Naomi Klein and special guests for a discussion of resistance and transformation in the Trump era, as she launches her new book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need

Schedule of Events:

Chicago, IL
Saturday, June 10thGet Tickets
With Amy Goodman, Danny Glover, Jane Sanders, and Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The People's Summit

New York, NY
Monday, June 12th / Get Tickets
With Eve Ensler and Hari Kondabolu at Cooper Union

Washington, DC
Wednesday, June 14th / Get Tickets
With Pramila Jayapal at Sidwell Friends School

Portland, OR
Monday, June 19th  / Get Tickets
With Jo Ann Hardesty at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing

Berkeley, CA
Tuesday, June 20th / Get Tickets
With Alicia Garza at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley

Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday, June 21st / Get Tickets
With Brit Marling at Wilshire Ebell Theatre 

Seattle, WA
Thursday, June 22nd / Get Tickets
With Jesse Hagopian at Neptune Theatre 

The No Is Not Enough tour is presented by The Leap, Haymarket Books, The Intercept, and the Nation.

Categories: Research

Watch Michelle Alexander, Naomi Klein, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in Conversation

Hay Market Books - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 14:48
On Tuesday, May 9, Haymarket Books hosted a conversation between Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein, moderated by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,000 at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre.

You can watch the embedded video below.

(Photo by Sarah-Ji, Love & Struggle Photos)

(Photo by Sarah-Ji, Love & Struggle Photos)

Categories: Research