Interesting reads

  • Essays and articles that are interesting or entertaining.
    Lets keep the islam/terrorism stuff in other threads.

  • [url=]United States of Paranoia: They See Gangs of Stalkers[/url]

  • Study gets something completely backwards....
    Left wing and not right wingers are authoritarian

    More interesting is how such a fundamental mistake can slip through.

  • Would be a good idea to keep the culture war/identity politics out of this thread.

  • Saw that the FBI is launching an appeal for information about the "original night stalker" killer. Reminded me of a great true crime article by a woman who'd become obsessed by these unsolved cases.
    In the Footsteps of a Killer
    BTW, that article was written by Patton Oswalt's late wife.

  • Would be a good idea to keep the culture war/identity politics out of this thread.

    By the way, if you're interested in that sort of thing, the Slate Star Codex subreddit does a weekly roundup:

  • [url=]A Stark Nuclear Warning[/url]

  • Mildly interesting:

  • Bay Area Rapid Transit: 2050
    Mapping the system if every proposed extension goes ahead by 2050.

    cf. The original proposed system from 1956. (IIRC, supposed to be finished in the 70's.)

    cf. The current system (not shown: the MUNI trams, which are pathetic, and CalTrain).

  • One of the more interesting documentaries I've seen, Herzog follows (the more interesting than usual) televangelist, Gene Scott.

    On a (slight) tangent, you give them your email & every morning you get half a dozen core headlines summarised with links to major non-firewall news outlets (WashPo, NYT, Guardian, Economist) covering the stories, Its pretty good in a "whats the big stuff happening today?" sort of way. Good way to weed out the "Last night on the Bachelor!!" shit you get from the front page of every major news outlet too.
    EG todays was (links in the original) -
    Chilcot Report: Turns Out The Iraq War Was A Bad Idea
    In a classic case of British understatement, the UK government's Iraq Inquiry, aka Chilcot Report, said there was "no imminent threat from Saddam," "peaceful avenues weren't exhausted," "the consequences [of the war] were underestimated," "preparation [...] was inadequate" and that the "government failed to achieve its objectives." Basically, British speak for we fucked up real bad. One highlight of the report was the revelation of a memo Tony Blair sent to President Bush at the time where he declared, in a tone reminiscent of a school boy crush, that he was "with you, whatever."
    Does anyone lose their job because of this 'mistake'?
    Tony Blair, consultant to dictators and chief architect of the Iraq War, apologized for how he handled the lead up to the war but said he still believes he did the "right thing." Seems like a weird way to apologize. The current leader of Blair's party, Jeremy Corbyn, called on the International Criminal Court to prosecute those who pushed for war. One can only assume this means Tony Blair. At least Brexit took a backseat for the day.
    Good Read: Lord Chilcot's Full Statement On The Inquiry
    Baton Rouge Protests The Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
    The US Justice Department is opening a civil rights investigation after Baton Rouge police shot and killed a black man pinned to the ground during his arrest. The graphic video of Alton Sterling's arrest and subsequent death sparked protests in Louisiana, where civic leaders and state lawmakers demanded an investigation independent of the Baton Rouge police. Rumors immediately circulated that Sterling might have been carrying a gun, but the police have not confirmed that. Protests are expected to continue, though Sterling's family showed some relief that the Justice Department was getting involved. “We’re confident that it won’t be swept under the rug,” the family's lawyer said.
    Lionel Messi's Fancy Footwork Also Extends To Creative Accounting Practices
    Say it ain't so! Famed Argentine footballer, Barcelona star and four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi received a 21-month sentence for tax fraud in Spain. The star, whose name was exposed in the "Panama Papers" leak earlier this year, was using offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay to hide "assets" like the use of his face in advertising. Don't worry fans, he probably won't actually go to jail.
    Germany's Xenophobic AfD Party Is Now Hiring
    The anti-immigration fringe party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) will need to replace one of their MPs who stepped down for his anti-Semitic comments. German politicians have long compared AfD to neo-Nazis for their anti-Muslim rhetoric. So nobody was surprised except AfD when their MP Wolfgang Gedeon turned out to be kiiiiiind of a Nazi. In a book published in 2012, Gedeon claimed that Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a piece of Nazi propaganda with a false historical narrative, was in fact real. Holocaust denial is a criminal offense in Germany, and this scandal deals a hard blow to a party that is trying to rebrand itself as "moderate" xenophobes.
    Just Kidding, We Aren't Leaving Afghanistan
    President Obama announced that he would slow down the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, leaving 8,400 troops there at the end of the year, ~50% more than the 5,500 he promised. The decision comes after a resurgent Taliban flexed its muscles last summer and after critiques that his withdrawal from Iraq left a vacuum that ISIS exploited. At this rate, the UK will leave the EU before the US leaves Afghanistan.
    Good Book: The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan
    Brexit: The Sterling continued to fall faster than hearts do around Justin Trudeau, reaching a new low against the dollar. Some in the Fed are so concerned with Brexit that they might delay raising rates again this year... just when things were getting normal again.
    Oscar Pistorius: The South African Olympic sprinter was sentenced to six years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius had pleaded that he killed her accidentally, but the prosecution called the Valentine's Day murder deliberate.
    Rwanda: In a landmark ruling, two former Rwandan mayors were convicted of crimes against humanity for orchestrating the massacre of hundreds of Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. A Paris court ruled that Octavien Ngenzi and his predecessor Tito Barahira will be jailed for life.
    Rio Olympians Need Special Suits To Compete In Sewage
    The Rio Olympics are less than a month away, but you could say that there are still a few loose ends to be dealt with. Rio de Janeiro's water is still brimming with raw sewage, and they haven't been able to contain a recent outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria. Oh, and that recent oil slick isn't helping either. The Rio pollution problem has become so bad, Philadelphia University had to develop antimicrobial suits for the US rowing team. Athletes will still have to compete at their own risk given that the suits are reportedly still no match for the water's viruses, which are thousands of times higher than the federal safety limits. At this point, a head-to-toe latex body suit might be their best bet.


  • [b][url=]Two huge new studies further undermine the "obesity paradox"[/url][/b]The "obesity paradox" is the observation that people with higher fat mass sometimes have better health outcomes than lean people, including a lower overall risk of death.  Evidence has been steadily mounting that this finding may be a misleading artifact of the methods used to observe it.  Two massive new studies add to this evidence.
    Two huge new studies with compelling designs add substantial weight to the hypothesis that there is no obesity paradox.  As suggested by controlled studies in animals and humans, excess body fatness likely contributes to chronic disease risk and the overall risk of dying.  Risk increases in parallel with excess fat, yet BMI values at the upper end of the lean range, and even into the lower overweight range, don't appear to be especially dangerous (particularly among people with higher lean mass)*.  Furthermore, healthy behaviors such as physical activity and a high-quality diet can attenuate risk in people of all weights.

    • People of Asian/Indian ancestry may be an exception.  Their risk level increases more sharply at a lower BMI level.

  • Philippines wins South China Sea case against China

  • Philippines wins South China Sea case against China

    Yeah, cos China accept that ruling and it won't lead to escalating tensions.
    Crazy stuff going on out there at the moment.  South China Sea clearly not the place for a pleasure cruise.

  • Yeah, their territorial claim is pretty hilariously brazen.

  • Enjoyed reading this, Mods feel free to move it if it doesn't fit with this topic

  • Yeah, their territorial claim is pretty hilariously brazen.

    Only if you're not Chinese

  • Only if you're not Chinese

    I think the Malay-Chinese will still find it pretty brazen. 😉

  • Some discussion of the implications of the court's ruling:

    Becroft was a government appointment with rare approval from every party in parliament. Worth a read.

  • This last one was spanked so hard it must be clear into fucking orbit by now:

    Fark, yeah.
    Comedy gold: May was seen as the safer pair of hooves.
    Satire is the shiz.

  • Frankie Boyle is an appalling human being , I read his book " my shit life" , he's quite funny in a " glad I'm not as fucked up as him" kind of way I guess though.

  • No culture war stuff in my thread. Definitely no comedians talking about politics.

  • If the Trotskyists are on the march there’s chaos ahead

  • Great article about corupt cops in NYC in the 80s:

  • Psycho-active pharmaceuticals and tolerances:

  • Mirror Trades and Tax Tricks
    11 AUG 22, 2016 8:24 AM EST
    By Matt Levine
    Deutsche mirrors.
    I like a good scandal as much as anyone, but the Deutsche Bank mirror-trading scandal leaves me pretty blah. Some Russians had money in Russia, and they preferred to have it elsewhere. That seems understandable? So they bought some stocks in Russia, and sold the same stocks (from the accounts of related offshore entities) in London, usually running both legs through a Deutsche Bank trading desk. The result was that they had less money in Russia and more in London, although if you do the accounting it would seem that they’d also be building up a large stock position in Russia and an offsetting short position in London. I’m a little curious how they closed out their short positions in London. Did they, like, fly bags of stock certificates from Moscow? Doing the mirror trades solves the problem of moving cash from Moscow to London, but would seem to leave a residual problem of moving stock.
    The big new New Yorker article about the mirror-trading scandal doesn’t answer that admittedly odd question. Nor does it quite explain what laws were broken by the mirror trades; presumably they evaded Russian capital controls, and there is a strong suggestion that some of the mirror traders were oligarchs subject to U.S. sanctions, who could not have moved money in more straightforward ways. But for the other ones, it's hard to tell if this was regular banal tax avoidance -- analogous to the dividend-arbitrage strategy that is legal in a lot of places, though roundly disliked everywhere -- or something more nefarious. On the one hand, there's a certain baseline level of shadiness that is just expected from global banks in Russia. "If you wanted to be competitive, you had to do a lot of things that were not done in the developed world, because it was Russia," says a guy. On the other hand, the former head of Deutsche's Moscow equities desk, a 37-year-old American who is apparently living in Bali these days, is compared to both Jason Bourne and Edward Snowden, so perhaps he got up to something genuinely juicy. 
    Meanwhile, the Russian broker who brought in the trades "wasn’t a great trader, but he was a good fisherman," which is exactly what you want in your broker.
    Amazon taxes.
    A core basic trick of international tax is:
    Build some intellectual property -- patents, technology, whatever.
    Put the IP in a subsidiary in a low-tax jurisdiction, say Luxembourg.
    Have all your subsidiaries in higher-tax jurisdiction pay the Luxembourg subsidiary a licensing fee for the IP.
    Make the licensing fee equal to your revenue.
    And by magic, you have moved all your taxable income from the high-tax jurisdictions where it is actually earned, to the low-tax jurisdiction where your IP sits. (The classic example is pharmaceuticals: If it costs you $1 to manufacture a pill that sells in the U.S. for $1,000, you have $999 in taxable income in the U.S. But if it costs you $1 to manufacture it, and you pay $998 in licensing fees to your Irish subsidiary, then you have only $1 in taxable income in the U.S., and $998 in Ireland, where hopefully your taxes are lower.) 
    One problem with this trick is that step 2 -- "put the IP in a subsidiary in a low-tax jurisdiction" -- isn't quite as simple as I made it sound. You can't just "put" intellectual property somewhere. You have to sell it, or license it. So if you build the intellectual property in the U.S., and then move it to a subsidiary in Luxembourg, the Luxembourg subsidiary has to pay licensing fees right back to the U.S. one, eliminating the tax savings from the licensing payments that the high-tax subsidiaries are paying to the Luxembourg one. Unless of course those payments are different. If the U.S. company licenses the technology to the Luxembourg one for $1 a year, and then licenses it right back for $100 a year, it can still take a nice $99 tax deduction. But how could you justify that?
    Regulators in Europe and the U.S. say that the value Amazon places on the technology behind that experience varies radically depending on which side of the Atlantic it’s on -- and which appraisal will lower its tax bill.
    In Europe, the e-commerce giant tells authorities that the intellectual property behind its web shopping platform is immensely valuable, justifying the billions in tax-free revenue it has collected there since moving its technology assets to tax-friendly Luxembourg a decade ago. In the U.S., however, it plays down the value of those same assets to explain why it pays so little in taxes for licensing them.
    I mean, I'm sure it's all fine! (Amazon "said that the IP was perishable given the high failure rate of tech companies," and argued that U.S. authorities "had drastically underestimated the amount of research and development costs that should be attributed to" its Luxembourg subsidiary.) But do you kind of get why the Deutsche Bank mirror trades leave me cold? Like, moving money from one jurisdiction to another while minimizing taxes is just ... I don't want to say that it's the point of the international financial system, but it's a point of an international financial system, anyway.

  • The article that the movie War Dogs is based on:

  • That post about finance and taxes makes my head hurt.

  • Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet

    Bruce Schneier, Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 10:00 AM

    Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don't know who is doing this, but it feels like a large a large nation state. China and Russia would be my first guesses.

    First, a little background. If you want to take a network off the Internet, the easiest way to do it is with a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS). Like the name says, this is an attack designed to prevent legitimate users from getting to the site. There are subtleties, but basically it means blasting so much data at the site that it's overwhelmed. These attacks are not new: hackers do this to sites they don't like, and criminals have done it as a method of extortion. There is an entire industry, with an arsenal of technologies, devoted to DDoS defense. But largely it's a matter of bandwidth. If the attacker has a bigger fire hose of data than the defender has, the attacker wins.

    Recently, some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the Internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them. Moreover, they have seen a certain profile of attacks. These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they're used to seeing. They last longer. They're more sophisticated. And they look like probing. One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure.

    The attacks are also configured in such a way as to see what the company's total defenses are. There are many different ways to launch a DDoS attacks. The more attack vectors you employ simultaneously, the more different defenses the defender has to counter with. These companies are seeing more attacks using three or four different vectors. This means that the companies have to use everything they've got to defend themselves. They can't hold anything back. They're forced to demonstrate their defense capabilities for the attacker.

    I am unable to give details, because these companies spoke with me under condition of anonymity. But this all is consistent with what Verisign is reporting. Verisign is the registrar for many popular top-level Internet domains, like .com and .net. If it goes down, there's a global blackout of all websites and e-mail addresses in the most common top-level domains. Every quarter, Verisign publishes a DDoS trends report. While its publication doesn't have the level of detail I heard from the companies I spoke with, the trends are the same: "in Q2 2016, attacks continued to become more frequent, persistent, and complex."

    There's more. One company told me about a variety of probing attacks in addition to the DDoS attacks: testing the ability to manipulate Internet addresses and routes, seeing how long it takes the defenders to respond, and so on. Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services.

    Who would do this? It doesn't seem like something an activist, criminal, or researcher would do. Profiling core infrastructure is common practice in espionage and intelligence gathering. It's not normal for companies to do that. Furthermore, the size and scale of these probes—and especially their persistence—points to state actors. It feels like a nation's military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the U.S.'s Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities.

    What can we do about this? Nothing, really. We don't know where the attacks come from. The data I see suggests China, an assessment shared by the people I spoke with. On the other hand, it's possible to disguise the country of origin for these sorts of attacks. The NSA, which has more surveillance in the Internet backbone than everyone else combined, probably has a better idea, but unless the U.S. decides to make an international incident over this, we won't see any attribution.

    But this is happening. And people should know.

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