The new red scare and fake news

In the December 2016 issue of Harper’s Magazine (subscription required) , Andrew Cockburn writes about the constant threat inflation that is practiced by the US government, whipping up one scare after another in order to support the vast expenditure on new weapons system, many of which do not work and cost vastly more than originally budgeted. We had the Soviet Union and president Kennedy’s infamous ‘missile gap’ and then when that threat waned, we had the war on drugs and then the war on terror and now we are in a retro period in which Vladimir Putin and Russia are back as the new scary monster that will destroy us if we do not spend more on fighting them.
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Fidel Castro dead at 90

The revolutionary leader of Cuba has died at the ripe old age of 90, after surviving numerous attempts by successive US governments to murder him. He said on his 80th birthday that, “I’m really happy to reach 80. I never expected it, not least having a neighbour, the greatest power in the world, trying to kill me every day.” He had proven so resilient that he seemed almost immortal and so his death, even though he had been having health issues for some time, comes as a shock.
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Identifying criminals using facial features alone

The idea that criminality is not contingent on external factors like need and opportunity but that some people are intrinsically prone to be criminals based on their biology has been around for a long time and led to efforts to create all manner of metrics to determine those markers. Sam Biddle writes about a troubling new study that claims that artificial intelligence (AI) software can tell whether you will be a criminal based on your facial features alone.
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Carlsen strikes back, evens the score

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen won game 10 of his match against challenger Sergey Karjakin, evening the score at 5-5 following a marathon game that lasted 75 moves and over six hours. It looks like the toll of the tournament is wearing down the players since they each made mistakes.

Karjakin had the option of creating a draw via perpetual check at the 20th move and since he was in the lead in the 12-match series observers expected him to go for it. But he said after the game that he did not see it.

Today is a rest day.

Oh, that’s just great

We already knew that people had the ability to convincingly alter photographs and video to get almost any effect they wanted. The software has become so easy to use that almost anyone who wants to can do so. Now Marcus Ranum links to an amazing video showing new audio technology that enables people to easily do the same thing to audio, so that using just a small sample of someone’s voice, it can make it look as if that person is saying something that they never did.

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When hysteria leads to injustice

The US periodically goes through phases of hysteria over this or that phenomenon and the public very often falls prey to the temptation to rush to judgment to combat what is falsely perceived as an epidemic of a particular type of crime. We saw this with the large number of pedophilia charges made against day care providers a couple of decades ago and the possible associated Satanic practices.
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Desperately trying to see the glass as half full

Many people like me who strongly opposed Donald Trump are desperately looking for silver linings that his presidency will not be the disaster for the US and the world that his campaign rhetoric suggested it would be. Those hopes seem increasingly desperate since Trump’s election has created major openings for a lot of people and groups who have all manner of regressive agendas, even while Trump himself has, as usual, been saying all manner of contradictory things, causing people to wonder what his agenda is and if he has even got a coherent one.
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When correlation can be used to infer causation

It is not uncommon to find correlations in the behavior of two or more phenomena and such correlations are sometimes used to imply causation. One of the most common objections posed to such arguments is that ‘correlation does not imply causation’, and is one of the first things that people learn about statistics. Even if they have not studied the subject, many people know enough to able to bring up this objection. But people may be sometimes too quick to pull that trigger.
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