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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bans Reporters From Public Town Halls

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Democratic socialist House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez banned reporters from attending several of her public town hall events this week.

Ocasio-Cortez, who shocked the political world by defeating Rep. Joe Crowley (D–N.Y.) in June's Democratic primary, held sessions with constituents of New York's 14th Congressional District on Sunday and Wednesday. But while she tweeted out some details about the town halls, she didn't let members of the media attend in person, according to the Queens Chronicle.

The candidate's campaign manager, Vigie Ramos Rio, tells the Chronicle the ban was implemented after reporters "mobbed" her last week following a community meeting. The campaign had apparently made it clear there would be "no Q&A and no one-on-one [interviews]."

Corbin Trent, communications director for the campaign, said that was what led to the media ban. "We wanted to help create a space where community members felt comfortable and open to express themselves without the distraction of cameras and press. These were the first set of events where the press has been excluded," Trent tells the Chronicle. "This is an outlier and will not be the norm. We're still adjusting our logistics to fit Alexandria's national profile."

But many on Twitter weren't buying it:

Trent later told The Washington Post that the campaign won't ban reporters in the future. "It's not been a policy of the campaign," Trent said. "It won't be the policy of the campaign."

Banning reporters isn't a good look for a politician, particularly one with as high a profile as Ocasio-Cortez. And if she wants to serve in Congress, she'd better get used to being hounded by the press.

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freeAgent
2 days ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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Bill Gates Makes Classic Error, by David Henderson

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Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw quotes from a recent book review by Bill Gates:

By the second semester of my freshman year at Harvard, I had started going to classes I wasn’t signed up for, and had pretty much stopped going to any of the classes I was signed up for – except for an introduction to economics class called “Ec 10.” I was fascinated by the subject, and the professor was excellent.

Greg’s interest, understandably, is who the professor was. He wonders if it was Otto Eckstein. I’m wondering if it was Elizabeth Allison. In December 1973, when I was in my second year at UCLA, I did a “busman’s holiday,” flying to Boston en route to Canada to visit my undergrad friend Lawrence Siskind and my econ graduate student friend Danny Steinberg. Danny invited me one evening to go with him to Elizabeth Allison’s place where she had a meeting of her teaching assistants (Danny was one) to go over some questions for an exam for a self-paced economics course she was teaching. It was an introductory course. Maybe she taught Ec 10 also.

But I have a less personal and more professional interest in the Gates’ review. After drawing a supply and demand curve correctly, Gates writes:

There are two assumptions you can make based on this chart. The first is still more or less true today: as demand for a product goes up, supply increases, and price goes down. If the price gets too high, demand falls. The sweet spot where the two lines intersect is called equilibrium. Equilibrium is magical, because it maximizes value to society. Goods are affordable, plentiful, and profitable. Everyone wins.

In the second and third sentences, Gates messes up big time. If demand for a product goes up, the price goes up. With an upward-sloping supply curve such as the one he draws, the quantity supplied rises. Net result: equilibrium price and quantity are higher. The price does not go down.

I’m criticizing Gates not to suggest that I’m smarter than he—I’m positive that I’m not—but simply to correct his analysis. One can make some pretty big follow-on mistakes if one doesn’t understand his mistake. I’m also not suggesting that he should have stayed at Harvard longer and understood economics better. If he had, almost all of us would have been at least slightly worse off.

Interestingly, in the paragraphs that follow, Gates does get at the crucial part of economics that matters for his industry. I’ll leave that part to you if you’re interested.

 

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freeAgent
2 days ago
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Uh, yeah...messing up supply and demand is a pretty big oops. And Gates did a pretty good job at botching his explanation.
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ISPs want to be utilities—but only to get more money from the government

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Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Aurich Lawson)

Broadband providers have spent years lobbying against utility-style regulations that protect consumers from high prices and bad service.

But now, broadband lobby groups are arguing that Internet service is similar to utilities such as electricity, gas distribution, roads, and water and sewer networks. In the providers' view, the essential nature of broadband doesn't require more regulation to protect consumers. Instead, they argue that broadband's utility-like status is reason for the government to give ISPs more money.

That's the argument made by trade groups USTelecom and NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. USTelecom represents telcos including AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink, while NTCA represents nearly 850 small ISPs.

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freeAgent
4 days ago
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Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship is “Moral and Ethical” Crisis

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Google employees are demanding answers from the company’s leadership amid growing internal protests over plans to launch a censored search engine in China.

Staff inside the internet giant’s offices have agreed that the censorship project raises “urgent moral and ethical issues” and have circulated a letter saying so, and calling on bosses to disclose more about the company’s work in China, which they say is shrouded in too much secrecy, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.

The internal furor began after The Intercept earlier this month revealed details about the censored search engine, which would remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. It would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, leaked Google documents disclosed. The search platform is to be launched via an Android app, pending approval from Chinese officials.

The censorship plan– code-named Dragonfly – was not widely known within Google. Prior to its public exposure only a few hundred of Google’s 88,000 employees had been briefed about the project – around 0.35 percent of the total workforce. When the news spread through the company’s offices across the world, many employees expressed anger and confusion.

Now, a letter has been circulated among staff calling for Google’s leadership to recognize that there is a “code yellow” situation – a kind of internal alert that signifies a crisis is unfolding. The letter suggests that the Dragonfly initiative violates an internal Google artificial intelligence ethical code, which says that the company will not build or deploy technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.”

“Google employees need to know what we’re building.”

The letter says: “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment. That the decision to build Dragonfly was made in secret, and progressed with the [artificial intelligence] Principles in place, makes clear that the Principles alone are not enough. We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building.”

The letter goes on to demand “an ethics review that includes rank and file employee representatives,” the appointment of an ombudsperson to oversee the process, a plan for more transparency to be instituted across the company so that employees can make ethical choices about what they choose to work on, and “ethical test cases” assessing the Chinese censorship plans. The effort to write and circulate the letter was partly led by a group of Google employees who previously protested the company’s work with the U.S. military to build artificial intelligence that could identify vehicles and other objects in drone footage. That protest was successful and led to Google allowing its contract with the military to expire.

Many Google employees are members of the Association of Computing Machinery, the world’s largest organization for computing professionals. The ACM’s ethical code states that its members should “take action to avoid creating systems or technologies that disenfranchise or oppress people” and “use their skills for the benefit of society.” Two Google sources told The Intercept that they felt the Dragonfly project clearly violated the ACM’s code of ethics, which has led them to support the protests inside the company against the planned China censorship.

Google’s leadership has still not spoken to employees about Dragonfly, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to contact the media. Publicly, Google’s press office has declined to answer any questions from reporters about the censorship, and has said only that it will not comment on “speculation about future plans.”

The silence from Google bosses appears to have fueled anger within the company. Discussion has raged among Google employees, with some questioning their managers, only to be told that details about Dragonfly cannot be shared. It has emerged that at least one Google staffer who worked on Dragonfly left the company partly due to concerns about the project, and another employee who was asked to work on it refused to do so.

This week, hundreds of Google employees shared an essay authored by Brandon Downey, a former Google engineer who says he worked for the company on an earlier version of its censored Chinese search platform. Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but pulled the service out of the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems. Downey’s essay, which he published online, criticizes the censorship, and calls on Google not to “make the same mistake twice” by launching Dragonfly.

“We have a responsibility to the world our technology enables. If we build a tool and give it to people who are hurting other people with it, it is our job to try to stop it, or at least, not help it.”

“I want to say I’m sorry for helping to do this,” Downey wrote. “I don’t know how much this contributed to strengthening political support for the censorship regime in [China], but it was wrong. It did nothing but benefit me and my career, and so it fits the classic definition of morally heedless behavior: I got things and in return it probably made some other people’s life worse.”

“We have a responsibility to the world our technology enables,” Downey adds. “If we build a tool and give it to people who are hurting other people with it, it is our job to try to stop it, or at least, not help it. Technology can of course be a force for good, but it’s not a magic bullet – it’s more like a laser and it’s up to us what we focus it on. What we can’t do is just collaborate, and assume it will have a happy ending.”

Google is facing mounting pressure both inside and outside the company. The Dragonfly plan has been condemned by a bipartisan group of six U.S. senators and several human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Google has not yet responded to questions posed by the human rights groups or senators, sources said. However, the company has in recent days engaged with the Global Network Initiative, or GNI, a digital rights organization that works with a coalition of companies, human rights groups, and academics.

Google is signed up as a member of the GNI, which means that it has committed to implementing a set of principles on freedom of expression and privacy. The principles appear to prohibit complicity in the sort of broad censorship that is widespread in China, stating that member companies must “respect and work to protect the freedom of expression rights of users” when they are confronted with government demands to “remove content or otherwise limit access to communications, ideas and information in a manner inconsistent with internationally recognized laws and standards.”

Google will have to explain to the GNI how its plan to launch a censored search in China is consistent with the initiative’s principles. In response to questions from The Intercept, the GNI refused to discuss its interactions with Google. However, Judith Lichtenberg, the group’s executive director, said in a statement: “All member companies are expected to implement the GNI principles wherever they operate, and are subject to independent assessment, which is overseen by our multi-stakeholder board of directors.”

Cynthia Wong, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, is one of the representatives on the GNI’s board of directors. Wong told The Intercept that Google “owes the Chinese people an explanation of how the firm can launch Dragonfly without being conscripted into human rights abuses.”

Wong added: “Google earned a lot of good will from the human rights community with they stopped censoring search in 2010. Yet the human rights situation has only deteriorated in the years since. If it re-enters now without any clear strategy as to how its services will improve human rights, it would be a victory for [President] Xi Jinping’s regime and will only serve to legitimize the government’s abusive approach. We haven’t yet heard any such strategy.”

Google did not response to a request for comment on this story.

The post Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship is “Moral and Ethical” Crisis appeared first on The Intercept.

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freeAgent
4 days ago
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Don't be evil.
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Trump's Tariffs Are Making Colombian Windows Great Again

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A Colombian window manufacturer is taking advantage of President Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum to undercut its American competitors and expand its market share in the United States.

Technoglass, which is based in Barranquilla, Colombia, can export finished windows to the United States without paying tariffs on them. Domestic window makers, by contrast, have to pay Trump's 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum and 25 percent tariff on imported steel—two crucial components of window frames. Those higher production costs for American companies have given Technoglass "a leg up," says Bloomberg's Ezra Fieser. Technoglass COO Christian Daes says the company plans to make the most of the situation by keeping prices low and expanding sales in the U.S. "I love Trump for that," Daes tells Fieser.

Since tariffs are taxes on imported goods, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that they have punished American companies and benefited those located elsewhere, which don't have to pay the taxes. That's why some American companies, such as iconic motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson, are considering moving some operations overseas in response to Trump's tariffs.

Counterintuitively (but not unexpectedly), tariffs that were supposed to protect American businesses end up punishing American businesses. Steel- and aluminum-consuming industries bear the brunt of the tariffs, but even one of the largest domestic suppliers of aluminum is now seeking relief from Trump's tariffs. It turns out that even aluminum producers have to buy steel and aluminum products.

The winners in Trump's trade policy, then, are not U.S. businesses or consumers but companies in other countries. Motorcycles made in Poland and windows made in Colombia are only part of that story. When retaliatory tariffs from China targeted American soybean farmers, it was Brazil that emerged as the real winner of the Sino-American trade war. Brazilian soybean exports have increased dramatically in the months since China slapped tariffs on America, and Brazilian farmers are now tearing out other crops to plant more soy.

While uncertainty about future U.S. trade policy has slowed investment in additional aluminum output in the U.S., Reuters reports that China is set to expand production in response to high prices created, in part, by the American tariffs. China already produces more than half of the world's aluminum, Reuters notes, and with Trump disrupting aluminum supply chains in the United States, Trump's main trade adversary could be "the main beneficiary" of the trade war.

Any effort to raise trade barriers will create more losers than winners, but there will always been some industries, businesses, and countries that benefit from the shake-up. The fact that America seems to be losing Trump's trade war might, eventually, get the president to reconsider his course of action.

Then again, Bloomberg notes, Colombia-based Technoglass has provided windows for Trump Tower in Hollywood, Florida, and Trump Palace in Sunny Isles, Florida. So it seems like everything is working out just fine for the president.

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freeAgent
4 days ago
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Remy –– People Are Outraged: New at Reason

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Remy is OUTRAGED over outrageous outrage.

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freeAgent
4 days ago
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