October 1, 2016 in 3,554 words

How to tell when your ass is too small


This Day In History: October 1, 1890

Yosemite National Park, the site of such natural wonders as Half Dome and the majestic giant sequoia trees, was established by an act of Congress this day in 1890. Environmental activist John Muir and his associates campaigned tirelessly for the passage of this act, and their work finally came to fruition when President Benjamin Harrison decreed that approximately 1,500 square miles in the California Sierra Nevada would be protected forever as Yosemite National Park.

Native Americans were the chief inhabitants of the Yosemite Valley. That is until the 1849 Gold Rush lured in thousands of non-Native would-be miners and settlers into the area. Curious tourists and the inevitable damage to the Yosemite Valley’s ecosystem followed.

In order to avoid further problems, conservationists talked Abraham Lincoln into proclaiming Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias a public trust of California. This was the first time the U.S. government had protected land for the purpose of public enjoyment, and it was the foundation of national and state park systems we enjoy today. (In 1872, Yellowstone became America’s first national park.) …

Trump’s bad week is a ‘nightmare’ for the GOP

Republican leaders and strategists are unnerved by Donald Trump’s erratic attacks on a Latina beauty queen and other outbursts this week, increasingly fearful that the GOP nominee is damaging his White House hopes and doing lasting harm to the party in the campaign’s final stretch.

Party officials said they are newly embarrassed by Trump’s impulsive behavior and exasperated by his inability to concentrate on his change message and frame the race as a referendum on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to interviews with more than two dozen of them.

Senate and House candidates are ducking questions about Trump and distancing themselves, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to talk about him. And few elected leaders are counseling him.

“Maybe every two weeks,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said to a business crowd about how often he speaks with Trump. …

Fears of a Trump presidency cause right-leaning newspapers to swerve left

A raft of traditionally conservative media outlets are choosing to do the unthinkable: endorse a Democrat for the first time

The Arizona Republic expected to lose subscribers when it endorsed a Democrat for president for the first time in its 126-year history. The death threats, however, were more of a surprise.

“Our sister paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, had seen subscription loss” after endorsing Hillary Clinton, said Phil Boas, editorial page editor for the Arizona Republic. “We had a sense of what we were facing. It was never a part of our decision making.”

Boas declined to talk about threats against his publication, which was formed by a group of GOP politicians and originally called the Arizona Republican. The paper changed its name in the 1930s, but not its political loyalties.

Until now.

“You have a man who is so dangerous and so unfit for office that he has to be stopped,” Boas told the Guardian. “The only way you’ll stop him is with Hillary Clinton. She’s a flawed candidate, but she has many good qualities. She respects the office … Trump does not. Trump talks about his genitalia in a national debate. That’s showing complete disrespect.” …

10 Left-Wing Terrorist Organizations From Around The World

Terrorism takes many forms and is not easily defined. Today’s fundamentalist terrorist movement in the Middle East may have sprung from far-right ideologies, but that doesn’t mean that the far-left hasn’t spawned its fair share of terrorist movements.

Left-wing terrorism has an antithetical origin in pro-communist/Marxist, anarchist, and libertarian ideologies. Here are left-wing terrorist movements from around the world just as dangerous and deadly as their right-wing counterparts.

10. Action Directe ~ France

Action Directe was a libertarian-communist group that formed from the remains of two other groups in 1977. They remained operational until 1987 and carried out numerous assassinations of high-level targets across France before finally falling apart due to the arrest of its main actors in February 1987.

The group carried out more than 50 attacks throughout France against targets they considered to be a part of the military-industrial complex. AD members fought against the NATO alliance and what they saw as the Americanization of Europe. Like many people in such organizations, those detained claimed their actions were completely justified and considered themselves to be political prisoners with no regrets for their actions. …

Why No One Should Vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein

There’s no such thing as a pure protest vote. You’re also voting for something—and these two stand for many deeply troubling ideas.

By now, you’ve seen Gary Johnson’s second “Aleppo moment,” from Wednesday night’s Hardball.

It’s embarrassing even to watch, like seeing someone who genuinely thinks he can sing butcher a song. As we know, it’s the second time Johnson has had such a moment, the first coming three weeks ago, when he obviously had no idea of what was happening in, or even likely the very existence of, the world’s most tragic city. Although both of those might still rank as less embarrassing than the MSNBC clip in which he quite literally bites his tongue to make…some point or other about the debates.

Ten days ago, I wrote a column that was an attempt to persuade swing voters that whatever their reservations about Hillary Clinton, her flaws paled in comparison to those of Donald Trump. I said then that I would write more such letters to swing voters, so let’s consider this column a second one: Please, don’t vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Let’s start with Johnson. …

Samantha Bee to Stephen Colbert: I Want 2016 to Be Over ‘So Badly’

The ‘Full Frontal’ host sat down with her fellow ‘Daily Show’ alum to talk about this maddening election.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

When Samantha Bee was just about to start hosting her own late-night show, Full Frontal, on TBS this past year, she got a card from Stephen Colbert that read, “Go get those bastards.” Nearly eight months later, he congratulated his former Daily Show colleague for “just crushing it.”

Now, as she said on The Late Show Friday night, they’ve got themselves some “incredible bastards” to go after every night on their respective shows. Asked if she’s “enjoying” the chance to make fun of Donald Trump on a weekly basis, Bee replied, “Enjoy is a strong word.” …

10 Fascinating Discoveries From Ancient Australia

Much of Australia’s history before the arrival of Europeans is unknown because of the lack of written records that allow us to understand early cultures from other areas like Africa and Asia. However, this hasn’t stopped researchers from uncovering the secrets of Australia’s distant past.

10. The Aboriginal-Amazon Link

The Aboriginal tribes of Australia are some of the oldest cultures in the world, but it has been something a mystery as to how they got to Australia in the first place. In 2014, researchers ran tests on the genomes of various South and Central American tribes and found that a few Amazonian tribes were more closely related to the Aboriginals in Australia than any of the Eurasian cultures other tribes descended from.

Due to the distance between the Amazon and Australia, this seems almost impossible, but the situation can be explained by humanity’s greatest migration when different cultures crossed the land bridge that once spanned the Bering Strait. It seems that a single group split, with one portion heading to South America and the other to Australia. As the continents continued to shift, the two tribes were divided by an ocean. …

Daily Show spoofs HB2 with anti-gay food truck in Raleigh

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available to embed.

Comedy Central’s The Daily Show came to Raleigh recently to poke fun at House Bill 2 by operating a food truck that refused to serve gay people.

The show parked a fake barbecue business called Bone Bros. Flamin’ BBQ outside Trophy Brewing on Maywood Avenue and the Ruby Deluxe bar on Salisbury Street earlier this month.

“I wanted to show North Carolinians what HB2 would look like in action, so I rented a food truck … and set out to refuse service to people by telling them they’re gay,” Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr. says at the beginning of the segment, which aired Thursday. “HB2 says I can do this Jim Crow-level (expletive), and nobody can stop me.”

For the record, HB2 doesn’t explicitly state that businesses can refuse service to LGBT people. But it did repeal local nondiscrimination ordinances that included LGBT protections and replaced them with a statewide nondiscrimination law.

That law bans “places of public accommodation” such as restaurants, stores and hotels from discriminating on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin, or biological sex.” But it leaves two categories unprotected: Sexual orientation and gender identity. …

How Chase Made the Perfect High for Credit Card Junkies

The $450-a-year Sapphire Reserve card has points-and-miles-obsessed millennials fired up.

Somewhere in the middle of Ohio there’s a nondescript office park, the kind you could drive by for years and never really notice. One of the buildings in that park is basically windowless; you might mistake it for a warehouse or, if you were feeling exotic, a data center. The only thing that’s remarkable about the structure, signaling there’s something of great value inside, is an imposing floor-to-ceiling metal turnstile in a guarded vestibule.

This building is a modern-day mint. It’s where JPMorgan Chase, the largest issuer of credit cards in the U.S., manufactures around 60 percent of the 95 million cards it issues each year. The company requires visitors to keep its exact location secret. For more than 15 years, the facility has hummed along, embossing numbers onto plastic cards and stuffing them into envelopes. During that time, only three things have really disrupted BAU, Chase-ese for “business as usual”: the Target data breach of 2014, which required the factory to quickly reissue millions of cards; the industrywide 2015 switch from magnetic-stripe cards to ones that include microchips; and in August the frenzied demand for the company’s newest offering—the Chase Sapphire Reserve. …


This Day In History: October 1, 1935

Singer and actress Julie Andrews has been enchanting audiences for over half a century with her charm, elegance, and perfect-pitch voice. There are few artists alive today that can rival her impressive body of work across the stage, screen (both big and small), and as a recording artist.

Born on October 1, 1935 at Walton-on-Thames, England, Julie came from a musical family. Her mother was a pianist, and her stepfather (who gave her the surname Andrews) sang in music halls. The couple traveled around England performing, taking little Julie with them.

She made her informal debut as a singer at age eight during World War II. While hunkered down in air raid shelters, Julie would lead sing-alongs with her neighbors providing a welcome distraction to the threat of enemy bombs. …

Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming as biased as we are

When you perform a Google search for every day queries, you don’t typically expect systemic racism to rear its ugly head. Yet, if you’re a woman searching for a hairstyle, that’s exactly what you might find.

A simple Google image search for ‘women’s professional hairstyles’ returns the following:

Here, you’ll find hairstyles, generally done in a professional setting by stylists.

It’s the nature of Google. It returns what it thinks you’re looking for based on contextual clues, citations and link data. In general, and without further context, you could probably pat Google on the back and say ‘job well done.’

That is, until you try searching for ‘unprofessional women’s hairstyles’ and find this:

In it, you’ll find a hodge-podge of hairstyles sported by black women, all of which seem, well, rather normal. On a personal note, I can’t see anything unprofessional about any of these, yet the fact it surfaced when I typed in that query proves not everyone sees it that way. …

How to Steal an AI

In the burgeoning field of computer science known as machine learning, engineers often refer to the artificial intelligences they create as “black box” systems: Once a machine learning engine has been trained from a collection of example data to perform anything from facial recognition to malware detection, it can take in queries—Whose face is that? Is this app safe?—and spit out answers without anyone, not even its creators, fully understanding the mechanics of the decision-making inside that box.

But researchers are increasingly proving that even when the inner workings of those machine learning engines are inscrutable, they aren’t exactly secret. In fact, they’ve found that the guts of those black boxes can be reverse-engineered and even fully reproduced—stolen, as one group of researchers puts it—with the very same methods used to create them.

In a paper they released earlier this month titled “Stealing Machine Learning Models via Prediction APIs,” a team of computer scientists at Cornell Tech, the Swiss institute EPFL in Lausanne, and the University of North Carolina detail how they were able to reverse engineer machine learning-trained AIs based only on sending them queries and analyzing the responses. By training their own AI with the target AI’s output, they found they could produce software that was able to predict with near-100% accuracy the responses of the AI they’d cloned, sometimes after a few thousand or even just hundreds of queries.

“You’re taking this black box and through this very narrow interface, you can reconstruct its internals, reverse engineering the box,” says Ari Juels, a Cornell Tech professor who worked on the project. “In some cases, you can actually do a perfect reconstruction.” …

You’d Starve To Death If I Didn’t Do My Insanely Deadly Job

If you, like us, believe that all food comes from the back of the grocery store, you may not be familiar with the practice of crop dusting. And no, it’s not just diffusing your farts: Dusting crops via a small plane is a real job, still done to this day. We talked to Peter, an Ag pilot in Colorado, and he told us …

#5. Crop Dusters Die All The Time

When someone refers to us as crop dusters, it’s because we’re effectively dusting the crops with our landing gear. I’ll regularly fly, no joke, about 10 feet above the ground. For shorter crops like potatoes, that number shrinks to about a foot. See for yourself.

I’m less “Goofy’s Barnstormer” and more real-life kamikaze pilot. My flight instructor has been at this since the 1960s, and it still requires his total concentration. This is not like driving, where once you get it down, you can start distracting yourself with podcasts or preparing crepes on the hotplate you have plugged into the lighter port. Flying so low to the ground requires you to constantly adapt to wind and obstacles. Especially power lines.

I’ll admit I got cocky during my flying lessons. After my first few flights, I thought I had a feel for my yoke and could level the plane out, after coming out of a dive. My instructor knew that wasn’t gonna happen, and yanked up. We grazed over a pond, and mist hit my windshield. That’s a bad thing. See, while flying, you generally want to be far enough away that you can’t actually taste the scenery. …

Amazon Says It Puts Customers First. But Its Pricing Algorithm Doesn’t.

Amazon bills itself as “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Yet its algorithm is hiding the best deal from many customers.

One day recently, we visited Amazon’s website in search of the best deal on Loctite super glue, the essential home repair tool for fixing everything from broken eyeglass frames to shattered ceramics.

In an instant, Amazon’s software sifted through dozens of combinations of price and shipping, some of which were cheaper than what one might find at a local store. TheHardwareCity.com, an online retailer from Farmers Branch, Texas, with a 95 percent customer satisfaction rating, was selling Loctite for $6.75 with free shipping. Fat Boy Tools of Massillon, Ohio, a competitor with a similar customer rating was nearly as cheap: $7.27 with free shipping.

The computer program brushed aside those offers, instead selecting the vial of glue sold by Amazon itself for slightly more, $7.80. This seemed like a plausible choice until another click of the mouse revealed shipping costs of $6.51. That brought the total cost, before taxes, to $14.31, or nearly double the price Amazon had listed on the initial page.

What kind of sophisticated shopping algorithm steers customers to a product that costs so much more than seemingly comparable alternatives?

One that substantially favors Amazon and sellers it charges for services, an examination by ProPublica found. …

Why Uber Is an Economist’s Dream

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Why Uber Is an Economist’s Dream.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

To you, it’s just a ride-sharing app that gets you where you’re going. But to an economist, Uber is a massive repository of moment-by-moment data that is helping answer some of the field’s most elusive questions. …

10 Things You Can Legally Do If You Go To The Right Country

Life can be restrictive sometimes. Sure, we have the freedom to pursue life and happiness but only within reason. If your happiness requires you to drive a tank naked while high on LSD, all that liberty starts to dry up.

Fortunately, there are some 196 countries in this world, all with their own values and sets of laws. No matter what you want to do, there’s somewhere in the world filled with people who think it’s perfectly fine.

10. Walk Around Naked ~ Spain

Spain has a reputation for nude beaches. Citizens and tourists from around the world scurry off to one of Spain’s many clothing-optional beaches, eager to enter the one place where they can cast off those constricting clothes without any pesky police telling them to cover up.

Most people don’t realize, though, that you don’t actually have to go to a nude beach. In Spain, you can legally be naked in any public place you want.

Since 1978, the constitution of Spain has not only guaranteed its people permission to walk around naked—it’s made it an inalienable human right. There have been attempts to change the law in the past, but none have gone through. …

Panda cubs make public debut in China

23 panda cubs are collected in China ahead of the country’s national day on 1 October. The cubs were shown off at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base on Thursday. Aged between one and four months old, the cubs lay on their bellies, occasionally exerting just a little effort to crawl a few inches forward. This year, the team at the giant panda base reported double the number of newborn cubs, when compared with last year.

SMiLE, Boulder: Mysterious street artist treads line between beauty, vandalism

Profile rising for prolific painter who leaves mark on city under cover of darkness

Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady on a old fence in North Boulder is an example of some of the SMiLE artwork around town.

Know where to look — usually down — and there’s an art gallery hidden in plain sight a few blocks off the east end of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall.

Start with the yellow-eyed cat painted ankle-high on the side of the Pharmaca outlet at the northwest corner of 17th and Pearl streets.

A block farther east, next to the Full Cycle shop that occupies a space once home to Boulder’s iconic Penny Lane café, stands a short utility box sandwiched by images of Beat heroes Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.

Cross 18th Street, and, from the side wall of a storefront shared by Boxcar Coffee Roasters and Cured, the crumpled face of a heavily bearded man gazes out of a stairwell at passersby. …


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Oh… it’s, a blimp… 1925 marked the year when the first Goodyear airships ascended to the skies. More than 85 years later, the iconic Goodyear blimps can still be spotted drifting through the clouds during football games, basketball tournaments, and even over the 2012 London Olympics.

While today the Goodyear blimps are invariable associated with sporting events and used for advertising purposes, this was not always the case. Goodyear started out in the “blimp” industry by making the envelopes for these types of airships. They then worked into creating the airships themselves and were soon awarded with a government contract to do just that.

Five years after Goodyear created its first airship, two massive rigid aircraft named the USS Akron and the USS Macon were born. These flying wonders were created for the US Navy and carried specialty planes like the F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawks, which could be launched and retrieved during flight for long range scouting and defensive purposes as neither airships were equipped with weapons. …

Video Goodnesses
(and not-so-goodnesses)

Upon learning that Trump’s company may have violated the embargo on Cuba in 1998, Stephen wonders if it will have any effect on the candidate’s chances of winning the presidency.

Testing Crow Intelligence and found unbelievable results.