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Apr 12 2014

Using sex to sell news

Sex sells. That is something that the advertising agencies discovered a long time ago. So it should not be surprising that TV channels should want to use sex to gain audiences, especially during the periods when ratings are being calculated. But at the same time, news stations tend to have older viewers who, at least on the surface, like to think of themselves as upholders of old-fashioned morality. Thus has emerged one of the most obvious media tricks to have your cake and eat it, and that is to have an ‘in-depth’ news story closely examining some aspect of sex while deploring it.
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Apr 12 2014

What to do about the ‘Heartbleed’ SSL vulnerability

On April 7, 2014 we learned of a vulnerability in the OpenSSL security system that you know is in operation when the webpage begins with https instead of http. It is the encryption system used to protect confidential information such as passwords and most sites that deal with sensitive information use it. This vulnerability allowed third parties to intercept and get that information.
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Apr 12 2014

Greenwald and Poitras dedicate their Polk awards to Snowden

Andrew Rice of New York magazine had an entertaining description of the Polk Awards last night where Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill, and Barton Gellman received the award for National Security Reporting for their work on the Snowden documents. Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian who supported the printing of the first major articles, also was present to pick up a well-deserved award for his paper.
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Apr 11 2014

The growing mess in Ukraine

Once the US and western powers accepted that it was ok for the elected government of Ukraine to be overthrown by unrest (either spontaneous or secretly instigated by the US) caused ostensibly by what were essentially policy differences over whether the county should move closer to the west or Russia, things that are normally decided by elections, it seems that it has now become the norm in that country for people in various parts of it to take things into their own hands.
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Apr 11 2014

Information in torture report starts to leak out

The White House and the CIA are still resisting calls to release even the 500-page Executive Summary and conclusions of the 6,300 page Senate torture report. It appears that while the full report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the US government’s torture practices has not been leaked (as yet anyway) elements of what it contains are coming out.
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Apr 11 2014

Greenwald and Poitras enter the US

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras entered the US today. They are here to receive their Polk Awards for National Security Reporting at an event to be held today in New York City.
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Apr 11 2014

How good are experts at discriminating?

Jonah Lehrer, the writer for the New Yorker who lost his job when it was discovered that he was recycling content and manufacturing quotes, had an interesting article before his disgrace where he discussed how hard it was for people, when subjected to double-blind tests, to discriminate between wines, not being able to tell the difference between high-priced reputedly quality wines with much cheaper varieties. There have been studies that show that when subjected to blindfold testing, even people who are considered expert wine tasters cannot even tell the difference between red and white wine, let alone the fine distinctions such as year, vineyard, grape type, etc. between different grades of wine
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Apr 11 2014

The effect of the internet on the decline of religion

I have been saying for some time that the internet is a real danger to religion. A new paper by Allen B. Downey of the Olin School of Engineering argues that what I had merely guessed at might be generally true. By controlling for other variables such as religious upbringing and education, the author finds that “Internet use decreases the chance of religious affiliation. Increases in Internet use since 1990, from 0 to nearly 80% of the general population, account for about 20% of the observed decrease in affiliation.” (p. 10)
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Apr 11 2014

Friendly scam artists

Everyone is (or should be) familiar with the infamous Nigerian 419 scam in which people write to you saying that there is this enormous fortune that needs to be taken out of some country and that if you are willing to assist, you will get a share of the proceeds. Everyone has received them would have noticed how poorly written these appeals are but as I explained earlier, that crudity is deliberate because the appeals have to be such as to not elicit a response from people who are likely to discover that it is bogus before they have parted with any money. Those people are a waste of the scammers’ time. The scammers want to only get responses from the really naïve.
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Apr 10 2014

The Daily Show on Noah

Jon Stewart looks the reactions of Christians to the new film.
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