February 6, 2019 in 2,377 words

San Francisco Wants to Ban Government Face Recognition

Is it too late, too difficult, or too ironic to try to stop it from becoming a city of surveillance?


A San Francisco lawmaker is proposing what would be a nationwide first: a complete moratorium on local government use of facial-recognition technology. Introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance would ban all city departments from using facial-recognition technology and require board approval before departments purchase new surveillance devices. The bill regulates only local use, not use by private companies: The face-unlock feature included on the latest iPhone model, for example, would still be legal.

Neighboring cities Berkeley and Oakland have passed similar rules, requiring public input and a privacy policy before officials implement new tech, but nowhere in the United States is facial recognition outright banned. Texas and Illinois require consent before collecting facial data, but don’t ban the practice. Bans have been proposed in Washington State and Massachusetts, but are still in the earliest stages of ratification. San Francisco’s ban could land as early as April.

In addition to banning facial-recognition technology, the ordinance stipulates that any department that wants to purchase new surveillance equipment—from CCTV cameras to social-media scanners and license-plate readers—must submit to the board of supervisors a “surveillance technology policy” laying out what information will be collected with the technology, how long it will be retained, with whom it can be shared, how members of the public can register complaints, and specified authorized and forbidden uses.

The proposal also bars city officials from using any data sourced from facial recognition. If police in a neighboring city wanted to share a list of suspects sourced from facial recognition, the San Francisco Police Department would be prohibited from using it, explains Lee Hepner, a legislative aide who helped draft the bill. He says this is only the first of many steps changing how the city balances policy and technology.


Programmer finds ridiculous ATM loophole that let him withdraw $1 million in cash

And the bank forgave him.

It sounds like something straight out of a movie: an unsatisfied bank programmer discovers the perfect scheme for making an ATM spit out free money.

But apparently, this story is true: The South China Morning Post and China’s Daily Economic News report that 43-year-old Qin Qisheng managed to withdraw over 7 million yuan (upwards of $1 million USD) from ATMs operated by his employer, Huaxia Bank — all by exploiting a crazy loophole.

According to the reports, the bank’s system didn’t properly record withdrawals made around midnight — effectively spitting out cash without removing the total from a user’s account. Normally, that might send up a red flag that a transaction had failed, but Qisheng allegedly inserted scripts into the system that suppressed those alerts.

Qisheng started pulling out money in November 2016, but it wasn’t until January 2018, some 1,358 withdrawals later, that the bank discovered the bad code in its system and brought him to the authorities.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Qisheng is now looking at ten and one half years in prison.


A translation gaffe at a major Beijing event defined China’s relations with Africa as “exploitation”

FREUDIAN


Not the right word.

It was a tactless case of translation that caught the attention of China-Africa observers worldwide.

At the 2019 China-Africa Friendly Night, a large screen displayed four buzzwords that intimated the relationship between the two sides. Along the words “Innovation,” “Efficiency,” and “Transcendence” appeared another bizarre one: “Exploitation.”

The event, which was held in Beijing, was attended by top African business and diplomatic officials along with representatives from nations involved in China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative.

The Chinese character in translation on screen was 开拓 which can be translated as “openness,” “exploration,” or even “pioneering.” But while linguists and analysts agree this was a case of lost in translation—and less a Freudian slip, as some have posed—they say it raises questions regarding the translation process and who approved the final messaging.


Freudian?

It also likely signifies, some say, the scant or lack of African involvement in the event’s organization which would have ensured that such a gaffe wasn’t printed. A similar event had indeed taken place in 2017, which used the words “consensus, integration, innovation, and development.”

Oops.


7 Reasons Americans Have Stopped Trusting One Another

Here’s the weirdest and saddest statistic I know: only 19 percent of millennials think the average person can be trusted.

That’s a bizarrely, alarmingly low number. These may be the most distrustful people in American history. And keep in mind that it’s not that they’re cynical in general — their trust of the government and corporations is the same as those of previous generations, and their levels of optimism are actually higher. They trust the system. They just don’t trust each other.

Now, I haven’t trusted anyone since age five, when my dad told me that Santa wasn’t real because he had died in 1970 after being stabbed by a pimp he’d refused to pay, so I’m in the same boat. But we need to get to the bottom of this.

7. Let’s Ask Ourselves The World’s Most Unsettling Question


Think of the worst person you know of, past or present. Hopefully someone who you know quite a bit about. Now ask yourself:

If you were in their situation, would you have done the same things they did?

You’re going to say no, because obviously you’re not a serial killer or Nazi torturer or Alex Jones or whoever you picked. But when I say “in their situation,” I mean the whole thing. You’d have their physical impulses, including any illnesses or personality disorders. You’d have their upbringing, their genes, any childhood trauma. You’d have all of the information that they absorbed over the course of their life — and only that information — and you would only be capable of processing it in the same way they do.

“Well, that’s different,” you’ll say. “You asked what I’d do in their situation, you didn’t say I’d actually become them.”

But … what’s the difference?


The Psychology of Belief

REASONABLE DOUBT: How your brain distorts the world to support your emotional attachments to certain ideas.

Belief is a powerful and necessary thing, governing our societies, our day-to-day and inner lives, our thoughts, hopes, plans, and relationships. You believe that the plane will leave the runway, that working hard will lead to a promotion, that the candidate you support is the best one for the job. Some things you believe because a pattern of experience suggests you should: The sun has come up every morning so far, so why should tomorrow be any different?

But other things you believe even despite logic and evidence to the contrary: The next lottery ticket you buy will be the big one, you can feel it.

Belief is like that; some things you believe because you just do. No one, no matter how brilliant or how educated, is immune to irrational convictions, says Paul Zak, a neuroscientist at Claremont Graduate University. For example, “Linus Pauling was a two-time Nobel Prize winner, one of the most respected scientists ever, and he believed vitamin C was a cure-all for things and spent a lot of years pushing it despite being totally unsupported by medical evidence,” Zak says. “He was as smart as they come, but he deluded himself that this thing was true when it wasn’t.”

That’s because the relationship between belief and fact often goes one way: “Our brains take the facts and fit them to reinforce our beliefs,” Zak says, and those beliefs don’t need to make sense to be deeply held. It’s a relationship that has both benefits and drawbacks — but knowing when it’s helping and when it’s doing us a disservice requires an understanding of how we form emotional attachments to those beliefs.


Did you consent to being born? Why one man is suing his parents for giving birth to him

Raphael Samuel, a 27-year-old antinatalist from Mumbai, believes it was wrong for his mother and father to create him without his consent.


Samuel: ‘Isn’t forcing a child into this world kidnapping and slavery?’

Name: Raphael Samuel.

Age: 27.

Appearance: Alive and regretting it.

Why? Because he didn’t ask to be born.

Neither did I, as it happens. No, but you probably aren’t planning to sue your parents for giving birth to you.

I am not. Is he? Well, he claims to be. According to reports, Samuel, from Mumbai, is a committed antinatalist.

What a coincidence. I hated those classes too. Antinatalism is a system of belief that holds that it is morally wrong for people to procreate, and a vast amount of human misery could be avoided by people simply not existing in the first place.

If nothing else, it sounds like a philosophical school with a self-limiting membership. It is actually a growing movement with adherents across the globe.

When you say “across the globe”, do you mean “on Facebook and YouTube?” Yes, but antinatalism has a long and respected pedigree: forms of it crop up in sects of Buddhism and Christianity, and more than one philosopher has argued that the optimal outcome for humanity is extinction.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

What do Osama bin Laden, President Woodrow Wilson, and Matt Damon all have in common? If Fox News is to be believed, all three hate America.

Over the past 15 years, anchors and commentators on the network have leveled the “hate America” charge at over 100 people, places, and organizations. The list includes violent extremists and despots, but also celebrities, academics and even entire countries. It’s sometimes unclear to what extent the “hate america” accusation is serious or playful.

We went through the TV News archives and Fox’s own transcripts and assembled every example we could find of Fox News outright accusing or implying that people, places, or organizations hate America.


Ralph Northam is still the governor of Virginia—for now. But he’s facing increasing pressure to resign after a conservative media site unearthed a photo of a man in blackface on Northam’s page in a 1984 medical school yearbook.

Northam insists it isn’t him in the photo. And the New York Times today reported that a group of his medical school classmates is standing behind him. “We fully believe Governor Ralph Northam is neither of the individuals in those repugnant costumes,” they wrote in a letter. “We attended classes with the Governor. We socialized with him. We knew him very well.”

But even if Northam can prove he isn’t in the photo, there’s another problem: In a press conference on Saturday, Northam admitted he had “darkened” his face for fun around the same time. “That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume,” he said. “I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.”

Northam may not have understood that “harmful legacy” back in the 80’s—plenty of people didn’t. In fact, many still don’t understand it now.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.


Chris Christie opens up about his position on the border wall, his ongoing feud with Jared Kushner and his private conversations with Donald Trump.

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


Watch the President’s SOTU Address from the other side. That is, the other side of the planet.


Stephen Colbert delivers a LIVE monologue following Trump’s un-lively State of the Union Address.

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


Seth takes a closer look at President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address in which he attacked the investigations of his presidency and repeated his demand for a border wall.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s me commentary on WTF Happened in January 2019.


まだまだ入れる!byまる Maru: I can still get into it!


FINALLY . . .

A Zen master explains how to walk more mindfully—without looking like a weirdo

EASY DOES IT


Home is everywhere.


Mindfulness is by now a tired buzzword bandied about by corporations, employers, insurers, life coaches, and wellness gurus. So you can’t be blamed if the notion of advice on “being here now” makes you break out in hives.

But the original masters of this practice—Zen monks like Thich Nhat Hanh—really do know something about cultivating peace and happiness. And to understand their wisdom, you needn’t follow the steps of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and retreat into silence in a monastery in Myanmar. Nor must you attend a Goopy wellness conference with New Age types. Instead, you can read Walking Meditation: Easy Steps to Mindfulness, a slender tome to be released in paperback this month, by Vietnamese peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh and ordained Zen Buddhist teacher Nguyen Anh-Huoing.

The book makes enlightenment sound refreshingly easy, attainable, and straightforward. All you have to do to become illuminated is pay attention when you breathe and walk … and try not be too awkward about it, so that you don’t make everyone uncomfortable with your consciousness-cultivating endeavors. Walking Meditation, which is a very sincere and sweet book, replete with charming poems about peace, is surprisingly funny in one regard. The Zen masters repeatedly advise mindfulness practitioners to not act like weirdos. For example, they write:

When practicing mindful walking in public places, always breathe normally. Walk slowly, but not too slowly, because you do not want others to think you are too unusual. Walk a little slower than your normal pace, a little faster than indoor walking. In this way you can enjoy peace and serenity as you walk without making the people around you uncomfortable.

However, much of the guidance in the book is about getting comfortable with yourself—your suffering, your speed, your breath, your steps. The authors repeatedly emphasize that mindfulness is an easy and gradual process that can eventually seep into and inform your every moment. But also, you can do it whenever and wherever, and every time you remember, you’re being enlightened.


Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?