My cell phone, here on the West Coast, is mistakenly linked to Northeastern University‘s alert system. During the Boston Marathon, and again this morning, I received warning texts before I knew anything had happened. I have family in Cambridge, so when I saw this text, “Governor to ALL Boston: shelter in place, stay indoors,” this morning, my heart dropped.
Below are some helpful links:
ProPublica, April 19, 2013, 12:20 p.m.
Boston is on lockdown as the hunt for suspects in Monday’s Boston marathon bombing is ongoing.
Waking up to the news this morning was being thrown into a sea of breaking updates, emergency warnings, and more than one conspiracy theory. To help you catch up, we’ve pulled together some of the best reporting so far, and who to follow for breaking news:
“Minutes before the bombs blew up in Boston, Jeff Bauman looked into the eyes of the man who tried to kill him.” How one victim of Monday’s explosion pointed police toward the brothers police are now on the hunt for.
I’ve put together some of my favorite essays from Partisan Daily (and my one attempt at a political cartoon), and made the complilation available as an e-book on Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, because you are sure they are going to kill bookstores and you like the feel of real paper, I was right there with you. Then I received one as a gift, and I changed my mind. You can also read the book on any iPad or smartphone.
Tell people you own a Kindle, then mention that all the great classics are available to read for free. As if correlation equals causation! I don’t usually mention that I can play Scrabble and read free romance novels, although that’s what I do. Well, I did read Ben Franklin’s autobiography, and Sherlock Holmes, but that’s too enjoyable to qualify as serious reading.
The ebook is available in Amazon’s Kindle store, here.
Everything We Know About What Data Brokers Know About You
by Lois Beckett ProPublica, March 7, 2013.
Data companies are scooping upenormous amounts of information about almost every American. They sell information about whether you’re pregnant or divorced or trying to lose weight, about how rich you are and what kinds of cars you have.
Regulators and some in Congress have been taking a closer look at these so-called data brokers u2014 and are beginning to push the companies to give consumers more information and control over what happens to their data.
Here’s a look at what we know about the consumer data industry.
How much do these companies know about individual people?
They start with the basics, like names, addresses and contact information, and add on demographics, like age, race, occupation and “education level,” according to consumer data firm Acxiom’s overview of its various categories.
But that’s just the beginning: The companies collect lists of people experiencing “life-event triggers” like getting married, buying a home, sending a kid to college u2014 or even getting divorced.
Equifax said in a statement that the information is only sold to customers “who have been verified through a detailed credentialing process.” It added that if a mortgage company or other lender wants to access information about your salary, they must obtain your permission to do so.
Of course, data companies typically don’t have all of this information on any one person. As Acxiom notes in its overview, “No individual record ever contains all the possible data.” And some of the data these companies sell is really just a guess about your background or preferences, based on the characteristics of your neighborhood, or other people in a similar age or demographic group.
Where are they getting all this info?
The stores where you shop sell it to them.
Datalogix, for instance, which collects information from store loyalty cards, says it has information on more than $1 trillion in consumer spending “across 1400 leading brands.” It doesn’t say which ones. (Datalogix did not respond to our requests for comment.)
Data companies usually refuse to say exactly what companies sell them information, citing competitive reasons. And retailers also don’t make it easy for you to find out whether they’re selling your information.
Mitt is lucky. In his debate performance he was held to some odd standard, seemingly universally agreed upon by pundits beforehand, that looking smooth and using forceful diction mattered most. This was the Likeability portion of the pageant, and Willy Bo Bo took the trophy.
But this was a debate. And if Mitt had showed up at a high school or college tournament, his score would have been zero. Here’s why:
In instances of evidence distortion and/or fabrication, the judge(s) shall automatically award the decision in the debate to the opposing team and give the offending speaker zero speaker points, noting the violation of the rules of evidence on the ballot as the reason for the judge’s decisions and points. In individual event, the judge(s) will treat evidence distortion and/or fabrication by giving the offending speaker zero points and by dropping that speaker from the speaker rankings to be assigned at the end of the round.
How is it that the media has declared Mitt Romney the winner of the first debate, when his performance was based on lies delivered as facts? In debate team competition, at the most rudimentary level, facts matter. Kids all across the country were assigned to watch the debate, and I’m sure that the thousands of young kids who could do better, and are held to a higher standard every day, found it as lame as I did.
A note to Obama’s coaches: be glad you’re only prepping the President of the United States, and not a college debate team, or this might have happened:
Forensics directors, coaches, assistants or judges found guilty of asking students to throw rounds of forensics competition will be subject to the penalties listed under section I of this Article.
A valedictorian who got there by cheating is stripped of the title. Lance Armstrong isn’t the winner of those yellow jerseys. When people lie or cheat to win, that win doesn’t count. We take away gold medals, college degrees, professional degrees, book awards. Lies
.In police work, they call it fruit from the poisoned tree, when evidence is collected illegally, all that proceeds from it is not admissible in court.
In school, they call it cheating. If you cheat on a test, or an entrance exam, you shouldn’t expect that your admission to university or your ‘A’ in home ec will be celebrated; it is not a real achievement.
I watched the debate with ids who ‘had to’ watch the debate for school. I think its unfortunate that the wrap-up for the debate mentioned the lies, and the facts that they replaced, but didn’t call Mitt Romney to account for it.
Character matters. It isn’t exciting, but it matters.
What’s Happening in Libya: A Guide to the Best Coverage
ProPublica, Sept. 12, 2012
Here’s the best reporting we’ve found not only on yesterday’s killings but also on post-war Libya. What are we missing? Please leave your favorite stories in comments. THE ATTACK: ITS ORIGINS AND VICTIMSU.S. Suspects Libya Attack Was Planned, New York Times The connection between an anti-Islam film that reportedly sparked this week’s protests in the Mideast and the attack that killed the American ambassador is unclear. Unnamed U.S. officials have told the New York Times and CNN that militants behind the attack may have instigated a protest against the film as a diversion or taken advantage of it as an opportunity.
Stevens ‘was thrilled to watch the Libyan people stand up’, YouTube In a U.S. embassy video uploaded to YouTube in May, Ambassador Stevens introduced himselfto the Libyan people. He described his childhood in California and how he fell in love with North Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, and compared the challenges facing Libya to the American Civil War.
Stevens: ‘The whole atmosphere has changed for the better’, International Herald Tribune The International Herald Tribune published a tribute to Stevens from foreign correspondent Harvey Morris, which included passages from a “catch-up email”Stevens had written to family and friends in July.
The victims: Sean Smith messaged fellow gamers in hours before attack, Wired Sean Smith, a foreign service officer stationed in Libya who was also killed, was an avid gamer whose death was first reported by his online friends. Yesterday, he wrote a message to an online gaming friend saying he hoped “we don’t die tonight.” He added, “We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.”
Violence at demonstrations in Benghazi is not unprecedented, BBC In 2006, during the height of the protests against the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, at least 10 people were killed in Benghazi during a large demonstration. The BBC reported at the time that the Italian consulate in Benghazi had been set on aflame and police had fired on demonstrators. Protesters were reportedly angry because an Italian minister had worn a t-shirt featuring the cartoons.
THE FILM The provenance of the movie connected to this week’s protests is murky. A trailer for The Innocence of Muslims was posted on YouTube in July on an account bearing the name “sam bacile.” Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches first raised questions about information “Bacile” — identified as a California real estate developer — gave to the AP and the Wall Street Journal in recent phone interviews. Christian activist Steve Klein, who has been described in the media as a consultant on the film, told the Atlantic that “Sam Bacile” was a pseudonym and he did not know the person’s true identity. The AP reported that “Bacile” is an Israeli Jew living in California and that he had raised $5 million for the film from 100 Jewish donors. But Klein told the Atlantic that “Bacile” is not Israeli.
An interesting theory is circulating about why Mitt Romney won’t release any more tax returns: in 2009, after his failed Presidential bid of 2008, he took a one-time government amnesty available to approximately 4,000 Americans with secret Swiss bank accounts.
Slate has a straightforward wrap-up of the rumor here by Matthew Yglesias.
If he’s running for Boss, Mitt doesn’t need to answer to the little people he will guide: does the shepherd ask the sheep? But as a man seeking employment as a servant of the American public, then yeah, we get to perform a background check. Your dad understood that, Mitt.
Elections are the interview process for a job as a public servant. You can have limitless awe at your own reflection….just don’t forget that the polished silver you’re admiring yourself in, it belongs to US.
Editor’s note: This post was first published Aug. 11, 2012. It was corrected Aug. 12 and updated with new material Aug. 15.
We’ve had several days to get to know Rep. Paul Ryan on the campaign trail, which means we’ve also had more time to review Ryan’s voting record. We’ve compiled a few more stories below — please keep your suggestions coming in the comments or tag them on Twitter with #RyanReads.
Paul Ryan’s voting record: Big-spending conservatism, Politico, August 2012 Politico scrubs Ryan’s voting record to see how his votes line up with his budget-cutting ways and finds that while he generally takes the party line, he has backed big-ticket legislation including the $700 billion TARP bailout, the 2003 Medicare prescription drug package and Alaska’s notorious “Bridge to Nowhere.” Ryan’s non-budget votes, Washington Post, August 2012 Most of the focus on Ryan has been on the congressman’s much-debated budget. But Washington Post’s Wonkblog tallies at least 71 bills or amendments that Ryan has sponsored in his Congressional career. An overview of legislation Ryan has sponsored on issues such as Social Security, health care, and presidential veto powers as well as Ryan’s complete voting record from Project Vote Smart. What is Paul Ryan worth?, Huffington Post, August 2012 Paul Ryan’s average net worth has grown since he was elected, from $382,865 in 1999 to $4.9 million in 2011, according to calculations by The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal. But that growth had little to do with his political influence and more to do with his marriage to wealthy Washington lobbyist Janna Little.
Want help going beyond the horse race? We’re gathering the best stories out there on Congressman Paul Ryan, his positions, and his background. Have other stories to share?
Fussbudget, The New Yorker, August 2012 This sweeping profile is a great introduction to Paul Ryan and his politics. Starting in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, it lays out the evolution of Ryan’s economic beliefs, and his rise through the G.O.P – from his early affinity to Ayn Rand to failed attempts at privatizing Social Security, to his Path to Prosperity budget plan, which would make radical changes in Medicaid and other social programs. The article also looks at the ways that federal-funded projects have helped Ryan’s hometown–and notes that Ryan’s plan “would drastically reduce the parts of the budget” that are funding exactly these kinds of projects.
"Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar" By Cheryl Strayed. Vintage, $14.95
When writing is your passion, all else takes the shape of words, of the pattern of fingers on a keyboard. Like a pianist composing music, coaxing the right composition from the tapping of keys is a lifelong work. In a glut of storytellers with marginal writing skills, Cheryl Strayed stands out as a composer.
There’s no doubt she is, above all, a writer. And it’s suprising, the places that good writing can pop up. Her newest book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar is a collection of advice columns Strayed wrote anonymously as “Dear Sugar” on www.therumpus.net, during 2010-2011. An aggregate of online columns? Telling people what to do about their longings, grief, private desires and public humiliations? Booo-ring, right? Wrong.
Sometimes, a book is greater than the sum of its parts. In the hands of any successful, consistent advice columnnist, a book like this would be repetitive. Boring. Mundane. Strayed brings something else to the party. Her deep compassion for the human condition, her insistence on integrity, her willingness to share her own raw aches and naked hurts, in the hands of a writer, elevate this book into something special.
Strayed is no Dear Abby. She’s a wordy lady, answering heartbreaking, raunchy and funny questions. I can picture her setting down a finished response, blowing the smoke off her pen and saying, “Take that, zen bitches.” No koans, here. But who, in the midst of deep uncertainty, wants someone to smile enigmatically and say “Is that so?”
If I was wondering about my post-college future, I’d rather hear something like this:
“Just close your eyes and remember everything you already know. Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits. Trust that all you learned during your college years was worth learning, no matter what answer you have or do not have about what use it is….When I say you don’t have to explain what you’re going to do with your life, I’m not suggesting you lounge around whining about how difficult it is. I’m suggesting you apply yourself in directions for which we have no accurate measurement. I’m talking about work. And love.”
And if my high school friend was involved in a dysfunctional dramatic love triangle, and the Dalai Lama himself said “Is that so?,” it wouldn’t be half as useful as this gem:
“I’ve been witness to those I care about cheating and being cheated on, lying and being lied to, emotionally abusing and being emotionally abused by their lovers….I’ve listened to long and tedious tales of spectacularly disastrous romantic woe that I predicted from the start because that same friend chose the same wrong person yet a-fucking-gain. But the sad news is that this is the way of the world, darling, and there isn’t a ding dang damn thing you can do about it……Do you know what boundaries are? The best, sanest people on the planet do, and since i have no doubt that you will become one of those sorts of people, you might as well learn about them sooner rather than later….”
As Strayed wrote in a column about unveiling her identity as Dear Sugar, which she did in 2011, she has a definite worldview that informs her advice:
Way up high on the list of the values and truths I most deeply hope to convey in this column is the fact that something is always at stake. Our integrity. Our internal sense of peace. Our relationships. Our communities. Our children. Our ability to bear the weight of the people we hope to be and forgive the people we are. Our obligation to justice, mercy, kindness, and doing the stuff in bed (or beneath the bathroom sink) that genuinely gets us off.
Strayed is in Chuck Palahniuk’s writing group. Her intense style reminds me of his, but she’s got this other thing. She seems fully integrated. Her bullshit and travails aren’t hidden in boxes labelled “The Past,” and “Present Day Stuff I Hope to God No One Finds Out About.” It’s all there in her columns: her grief, her troubles, her pain, and she walks that hazard line where she’s telling the world, and the questioner, about her pain & it comes across as empathy, not narcissism. She’s not just offering advice. She’s willing to tell the world how she came by her hard-earned wisdom.
It, too, is a very good read. At the dinner table every night, at coffee with my friends, I couldn’t stop talking about this amazing book, a memoir of a young woman’s audacious solo hike along part of the Mexico-to-Canada wilderness trail.
I expected Jon Krakauer with boobs, all competence and technical gear and action. Instead, I got blindsided by Strayed’s unique and humble wisdom. She was 26 years old at the time of her hike, and not a hiker. In fact, she was a bit of a mess, divorced, dealing with the death of her mom and the splintering of her family. Lucky for us, she’s also a writer of the highest caliber, with a deep understanding of human nature in all its weird & painful & joyous manifestations. And she’s funny.
Oprah loves her, and I’d imagine hipsters would hate her. Strayed is a stylist, but her style and her cascade of words are a torrent of a sort of sweet philosophy about life. She swears a lot, she doesn’t blink a literary eye at adultery and abuse & pain, but she comes across as gentle and thoughtful, underneath the cool-cat stuff.
Strayed is also the author of Torch, a novel. Her website is here. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and children.
Do you ever clean out filters in your house? Maybe a fish tank, or air filter or vacuum cleaner filter? Part of blog housekeeping is deleting comments that get sidelined as possible spam. They are uniformly weird, unrelated to the post, and link back to an ad-laden website, lately Spanish or Portuguese.
To get past spam filters, or even rated as ‘possible spam’ takes some creativity. Here’s my favorite comment so far, from someone who linked to a Dr. Dre Beats ad/website:
“I’ve just lately started an internet site, the information you offer on this web site has helped me tremendously. Thanks for your time & perform. ???The murals throughout restaurants are saved to par with the food throughout museums.??脿 through Peter De Vries.”
I’ve received a few that chided me for my poor spelling & offered to help (on posts with no spelling errors), and others that complimented my magnificence (also an inaccurate observation). And then there are the emails that want me to get an IRS refund, resubmit a job application, enlarge someone’s penis & create a bank account for foreign diplomats: bullshit, sure. Traps, cons… and yet, they read like trippy postmodern poetry, shabbily crafted.
Outstanding student loans now top $1 trillion, more than the nation’s credit-card debt. We rounded up some of the best explanatory and accountability journalism on student debt.
We’re also reporting on student debt on an ongoing basis. If you’re struggling with your loans, we’d love to hear from you.
On the state of student debt — where we are:
Degrees of Debt, New York Times, May 2012 This sweeping overview of the state of student debt, and its effects on students and their families, includes a useful interactive that lets you discover the average student debt at your alma mater.
Student Loans: Is There Really a Crisis?, TIME Ideas, May 2012 Before giving up on college altogether, you may want to take a look at some of the stats in this piece by Andrew J. Rotherham, who also runs the EduWonk blog. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson echoed his points in a quick post that included a helpful graphic on the share of student loan debtors by amount.
Taxpayers Fund $454,000 Pay for Collector Chasing Student Loans, Bloomberg, May 2012 The government relies on a little-known pool of collection agencies to recoup student loans made by banks and other private lenders. They can counsel a borrower to avoid default, but they receive massive amounts more for collecting defaulted loans — up to 37 percent of a borrower’s entire loan amount, half in collection costs and half in taxpayer-funded commissions. Contributed by @KYWeise
Obama Relies on Debt Collectors Profiting From Student Loan Woe, Bloomberg, March 2012 The private debt-collection companies helping the Education Department recoup $67 billion of defaulted student loans made about $1 billion in commissions last year — while also facing growing complaints that they’re forcing troubled borrowers to pay more than they legally owe. Contributed by @paulkiel
Unrepaired Education Department System Leaves Thousands Stuck in Default, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2012 After The Chronicle reported on problems with the government’s debt-management system in December, the Education Department promised to fix the issues. Checking in, they found thousands of borrowers still stuck in default, even though their loans should have been restored to good standing and their credit histories cleared. We also chronicled issues with changes in the servicing of federal student loans in April 2012.
NYU Students: Debt and Debtor, Village Voice, September 2011 NYU is on a “multi-decade spending spree,” but as tuition has skyrocketed, financial aid hasn’t kept up. When the Village Voice story was published in 2011, NYU ranked number one in student debt, with the exception of for-profit colleges. This piece gives a nice overview of how NYU’s hefty price tag came to be — and why students keep paying it. Contributed by @seleross