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Reader reifman writes: Since Amazon introduced the Alexa-enabled Echo device in 2014, the jokes have become so omnipresent that Alexa Philbeck, 29, briefly considered changing, or at least obscuring, her name. The Seattle Times speaks to four women unfortunately called Alexa in a town that may soon be known as Seamazon.

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(Greg Dworkin, inventor of the APR series, is on vacation.)

Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post writes—Sean Spicer is free!

The enchantment is finally broken. Sean Spicer has been set free.

For just over 180 days, he toiled under the watchful eye of the ogre, performing acts that made his whole soul shrink in revulsion. From the first day, when he had to come out and bear false witness to the numbers present for the inauguration, to the very last, when you could still hear his voice echoing dimly from far off camera, insisting that the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act was an excellent idea, he was forced to spew one horrifying imbecility after another. Even his suits shrank in revulsion.

But he could not help it. They had his whole family in an hourglass, and whenever President Trump shook it, horrible things would happen. All his brothers had been transformed into swans.

And so his punishment was to go to the lectern each morning. The curse held him. He had to stand there and say nothing (in as many words as possible). He had to stand there pronouncing hateful phrases about how the House’s American Health Care Act was superior to its predecessor since it required fewer pages, and saying it was necessary to vet a five year-old because Who Knew Who Might Radicalize these refugee babies, and admitting that, after all, Even Hitler never used gas on his own people. [...]
He did not bring this suffering on himself. How could he have? Who would do such a thing? It is far more likely that it was an enchantment, and therefore we should pity him.
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Posted by msmash

In Norway, there are no such secrets. Anyone can find out how much anyone else is paid -- and it rarely causes problems. From a report: In the past, your salary was published in a book. A list of everyone's income, assets and the tax they had paid, could be found on a shelf in the public library. These days, the information is online, just a few keystrokes away. The change happened in 2001, and it had an instant impact. "It became pure entertainment for many," says Tom Staavi, a former economics editor at the national daily, VG. "At one stage you would automatically be told what your Facebook friends had earned, simply by logging on to Facebook. It was getting ridiculous." Transparency is important, Staavi says, partly because Norwegians pay high levels of income tax -- an average of 40.2 percent compared to 33.3 percent in the UK, according to Eurostat, while the EU average is just 30.1 percent. "When you pay that much you have to know that everyone else is doing it, and you have to know that the money goes to something reasonable," he says. "We [need to] have trust and confidence in both the tax system and in the social security system."

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An anonymous reader writes: A British magazine is directing readers to copyright-infringing software, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) has said. Kodi is a free, legal media player for computers -- but software add-ons can make it possible to download pirated content. The Complete Guide to Kodi magazine instructs readers on how to download such add-ons. Dennis Publishing has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment. The magazine is available at a number of retailers including WH Smith, Waterstones and Amazon. It was spotted on sale by cyber-security researcher Kevin Beaumont. It repeatedly warns readers of the dangers of accessing pirated content online, but one article lists a series of software packages alongside screenshots promoting "free TV", "popular albums" and "world sport". "Check before you stream and use them at your own risk," the guide says, before adding that readers should stay "on the right side of the law."

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sombragris writes: July 17 marked the 24th anniversary of Slackware Linux, the oldest GNU/Linux still in active development, being created in 1993 by Patrick Volkerding, who still serves as its BDFL. Version 14.2 was launched last year, and the development version (Slackware-current) currently offers kernel 4.9.38, gcc 7.1, glibc 2.25, mesa 17.1.5, and KDE and Xfce as official desktops, with many others available as 3rd party packages. Slackware is also among the Linux distributions which have not adopted systemd as its init system; instead, it uses a modified BSD init which is quite simple and effective. Slackware is known to be a solid, stable and fast setup, with easy defaults which is appreciated by many Linux users worldwide. Phoronix has a small writeup noting the anniversary and there's also a nice reddit thread.

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Comic for July 22, 2017

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:59 pm
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Dilbert readers - Please visit Dilbert.com to read this feature. Due to changes with our feeds, we are now making this RSS feed a link to Dilbert.com.
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Wine Lovers Need These Artisan Decanters


Want to start pouring your evening glass of vino from something a little more special than the bottle? Check out this Eravino Wine Decanter. [ more › ]
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Posted by msmash

Reader schwit1 writes: If you're an advertiser who wants to market a product to millennials, you're going to have to make it quick. A new study by comScore revealed online ads targeted toward millennials have to be around 5 to 6 seconds to be effective, a sharp contrast from the traditional 30-second commercial seen on TV. "The length of time of an episode or a viewing period is really important and has got to be short, otherwise you just won't keep the attention of millennials," comScore CEO Gian Fulgoni told CNBC's "Squawk Alley." The format of advertising may have to be radically changed to reach millennials, he suggested. "You're going to have to make your case literally in a matter of seconds and make sure you grab somebody's attention, Fulgoni said.

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New submitter cornholed writes: In an update to previous posts on Slashdot, prominent Drupal and PHP Developer Larry Garfield is still defending his reputation against allegations by Drupal leadership against sexual misconduct. As previously reported by a variety of news organizations, Larry was exiled from the Drupal project for adherence to the Gor sci-fi lifestyle. In the latest round of allegations, Garfield was reportedly asked to resign because an autistic "woman who attended Drupal community events ... was allowed to contribute by him". While some have accused Dries Buytart and the Drupal Association of "Autism Shaming", the leader of the Drupal project claims "this person could be vulnerable and may have been subject to exploitation", hence raising the risk of legal damage to the Drupal project. Larry refutes these allegations, saying these claims are post-hoc and has shared police reports purporting his innocence. There is still much debate in the Drupal community around why Larry was ejected from his leadership positions. While there's much speculation over Larry's ouster, there is one thing for certain: become a leader in the OSS community and a dossier on your public statements just might be made about you.

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New submitter dgatwood writes: According to an Ars Technica article, Verizon recently began experimenting with throttling of video traffic. The remarkable part of this story is not that a wireless ISP would throttle video traffic, but rather that Verizon's own Go90 video platform is also affected by the throttling. From the article, "Verizon Wireless customers this week noticed that Netflix's speed test tool appears to be capped at 10Mbps, raising fears that the carrier is throttling video streaming on its mobile network. When contacted by Ars this morning, Verizon acknowledged using a new video optimization system but said it is part of a temporary test and that it did not affect the actual quality of video. The video optimization appears to apply both to unlimited and limited mobile plans. But some YouTube users are reporting degraded video, saying that using a VPN service can bypass the Verizon throttling."If even Verizon can get on board with throttling sans paid prioritization, why is Comcast so scared of the new laws that are about to go into effect banning it?

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Steve Horn at DeSmogBlog and Curtis Waltman at MuckRock write—Emails Show Iraq War PR Alums Led Attempt to Discredit Dakota Access Protesters:

Behind the scenes, as law enforcement officials tried to stem protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, alumni from the George W. Bush White House were leading a crisis communications effort to discredit pipeline protesters.

Emails show that the firms Delve and Off the Record Strategies, apparently working on contract with the National Sheriffs’ Association, worked in secret on talking points, media outreach, and communications training for law enforcement dealing with Dakota Access opponents mobilized at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. This revelation comes from documents obtained via an open records request from the Laramie County Sheriff's Department in Wyoming.

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As previously reported by DeSmog, the GOP-connected firm DCI Group led the forward-facing public relations efforts for Dakota Access via a front group called Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN). Today MAIN has morphed into a national effort known as Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN).

Delve is an opposition research firm run by Jeff Berkowitz, former Republican National Committee research director and official in the George W. Bush White House. His company led research efforts on behalf of the National Sheriffs' Association.

Off the Record Strategies, meanwhile, guided the sheriffs’ behind-the-scenes communications strategy. Mark Pfeifle runs the secretive firm, Off the Record Strategies, and served as communications advisor in the George W. Bush administration, leading PR efforts for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The National Sheriffs’ Association, a trade group for sheriffs, has been lobbying the federal government for additional surplus military gear from the Department of Defense under the auspices of its 1033 program. The association was also the central organizing vehicle which brought hundreds of out-of-state cops to Standing Rock via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

Law enforcement present at Standing Rock under EMAC came under fire for a heavy-handed and overtly military-like response to pipeline protesters. [...]

TOP COMMENTSHIGH IMPACT STORIES

QUOTATION

“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.” 
    
~Howard ZinnThe Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy (1997)


TWEET OF THE DAY

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BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2011Shelby says Cordray nomination to CFPB ‘dead on arrival’:

No surprise to anyone since he's said it before, but Richard Shelby asserts that the nomination of Richard Cordray to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Board is "dead on arrival." Unless, that is, President Obama gives in to Republican demands to restructure the bureau into a watchdog with neither bark nor bite.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published today (available to subscribers only), amid blaming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the housing crisis, the Alabama senator (who is the ranking member on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee) rejected accusations that proposals Republicans have made to change the bureau are an effort to eviscerate it.  

That's not how consumer groups see it for the obvious reason that the GOP has been trying to gut the CFPB since failing to strangle it in its crib after failing to ensure it was stillborn. What could be more rancid than Shelby posturing as an advocate for consumer rights against a "concentration of power [that will be] abused or misused to the detriment of American businesses and consumers"?

This is the guy, you may recall, who just four months ago labeled as a "regulatory shakedown" the settlement proposal sought by state attorneys general to get mortgage lenders to provide modest restitution for their larcenous abuses of American borrowers and credit card holders. There is a concentration of abusive power he's concerned about all right. The one that has him firmly wedged in its back pocket and another part of its back side.

On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Alert! We’re approaching the Weekend Crazy Zone and already coming in dangerously hot! How do reporters keep from laughing in Trump’s face? Trump floats firing Mueller and pardoning himself. How do we deal with that? “Adoption” is code for “sanctions.”

YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash

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An anonymous reader shares a blog post: I've got a Firefox profile with 1691 tabs. As you would expect, Firefox handled this profile quite poorly for a long time. I got used to multi-minute startup time, waiting 15-30 seconds for tabs from external apps to show up, and all manner of non-responsive behavior. And then, quite recently, everything changed. Right now, more effort is being put into making Firefox fast than I've seen since... well, since I've been working on Firefox. And I've been at Mozilla for more than a decade. Part of this effort is a project called Quantum Flow -- a bunch of engineers making changes that directly impact Firefox responsiveness. A lot of the improvement in this particular scenario is from Kevin Jones' work on bringing the overall cost of unloaded tabs as close to zero as possible. While the major work has landed, the work continues in Bug 906076. Test scenario: I took my 1691 tab browser profile, and did a wall-clock measurement of start-up time and memory use for Firefox versions 20, 30, 40, and 50 through 56. In the result, the person found that Firefox startup time has gotten worse over time... until Firefox 51.

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From a report: Senator Edward Markey this week questioned FCC boss Ajit Pai's justifications for killing popular net neutrality rules in a hearing in Washington. We've noted repeatedly that while large ISPs claim net neutrality killed broadband investment, objective analysis repeatedly finds that to be a lie. That's not just based on publicly-available SEC filings and earnings reports, but the industry's own repeated comments to investors and analysts. But that doesn't stop AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter (and the ocean of politicians, think tankers, consultants and other PR vessels they employ to make this misleading argument in the media on a daily basis) from making the claim anyway. And while Pai once again this week breathlessly proclaimed that net neutrality put a damper on network investment, Markey simply wasn't having it. "Publicly traded companies are required by law to provide investors accurate financial information, including reporting any risks or financial burdens," Markey said. "However, I have found no publicly traded ISP that has reported to its investors by law that Title II has negatively impacted investment in their networks. Many, in fact, have increased deployment and investment."

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Whether you are hiding in your panic room or just popping Xanax every 15 minutes, the one thing we can all say about the current state of affairs is that we are all living in “historic” times. Every week or two we are faced with news that President Trump has reached a new low in approval from the American public, just marked the shortest tenure of a national security adviser (who should also probably be in a military prison), or he’s just acting historically unhinged. The Washington Post points out that Sean Spicer’s announcement today that he is resigning his position as the president’s spokesman makes his tenure the new historic low-water mark.

But Spicer's resignation on Friday means his run as the president's spokesman was among the briefest ever. Each of the five men who held the position for less time than Spicer had his term truncated by special circumstances.

Some of those “special circumstances” include:

Campaign Action

Jerald terHorst (30 days) was Gerald Ford's pick after Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. When Ford pardoned Nixon for all Watergate-related crimes, terHorst quit in protest.

James Brady (69 days) was shot in the head during an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981. He survived but never returned to the post.

The one to remember is that Donald Trump didn’t usher in these historic lows: Republican Party heads Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan did when they scuttled the Constitution, stole a Supreme Court seat, and subsequently decided to create and pass legislation that only they get to discuss.

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The end of this week brings us a quote from Capitol Hill that seems at once obvious and also perplexing after seven full months of totally inane Republican rule. The New York Times writes:

“Things are starting to feel incoherent,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, reflecting on the health care efforts, which have turned many Republican senators against one another as efforts to negotiate the future of the Medicaid program have caused large rifts.

With no small measure of understatement, Mr. Corker conceded, “There’s just not a lot of progress happening.”

Yep. And also: "starting"?

Perhaps “better late than never” is what we should grasp on to here. But the observation does provide some real insight into the thickness of the blinders Congressional Republicans have bound their heads in as they barreled hapless and headlong toward achieving their completely nefarious political promises without any reflection on actual policy.

Who even had time to notice three ever-expansive and all-consuming investigations into a president who's already had more scandalous Russian links exposed than most politicians have secrets in their entire careers?

The spectacle of total GOP control and virtually no legislative accomplishments to show for it other than a couple of black eyes has even tied the tongue of a perpetual bloviator like Newt Gingrich.

Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was seen gliding through the Capitol on Thursday, normally loquacious on all matters of party strategy, politics and the possibilities of moon colonization, had nothing to say. He stared straight ahead when asked about Republican woes.

No quote follows that graph, just to be clear. In other words, Newt said nothing—which could perhaps be considered a GOP accomplishment at this stage.

And yet, even with the news of Sen. John McCain's brain cancer diagnosis, there's no sign yet that Republican leadership is facing up to the fact that they likely won't be able to pass any major legislation without the help of Democrats.

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In a move that is surprising to absolutely no one, Donald Trump will not be speaking at this year’s annual NAACP convention which begins on Saturday in Baltimore.

This is the second year in a row that he has declined an invitation to speak at the event. The same invitation has been extended to, and accepted by, his predecessors in previous years— with Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan all speaking at the event. In fact, Trump has just made history by becoming the first sitting president in more than 30 years to break with tradition and not meet with the nation’s oldest civil rights group at their annual convention. This move solidifies every thing we need to know about him and his priorities. Of course, we didn’t need this latest refusal to figure out that this president is a racist and a bigot who cares little for minorities or improving their lives.

The NAACP responded to Trump’s refusal to attend their conference by putting out this statement on Thursday. 

“It’s extremely unfortunate that during these pressing and urgent times, the President has chosen to turn his back on the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization – though I must admit, his refusal to attend our convention is not totally unexpected,” said Leon Russell, Board Chairman of the NAACP. [...]

“During his campaign, President Trump asked us ‘what do you have to lose?’ This is the second time President Trump has refused an offer to speak at our annual convention. We get the message loud and clear. The President’s decision today underscores the harsh fact: we have lost – we’ve lost the will of the current Administration to listen to issues facing the Black community.

Needless to say that in his nearly two-year campaign, Donald Trump made it very clear to everyone he spoke to that black people, in his opinion, were doing terribly. “You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed.” This was a narrative that he repeated often. So given a chance to speak to actual black people about his ‘yuge’ plans for fixing the conditions that have us living the hellhole that he so painstakingly painted on the campaign trail, you’d think he might actually take up the opportunity.

Except: it’s Donald Trump. He’s a complete fraud and a charlatan who wanted votes, and said anything to get them. This is the same man who campaigned as a champion of LGBTQ rights. But when Pride came last month, the White House refused to acknowledge it at all. 

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Team Trump doesn't like the Russia investigation one whit, but they are particularly averse to the idea that the probe might balloon from collusion and obstruction into an expansive review of Donald Trump's finances. Now Trump's legal team is working to turn the tables on who's on trial in an effort to cast doubt on the neutrality of special counsel Robert Mueller and his team or worse—lay the groundwork for Mueller's removal. The New York Times writes:

The search for potential conflicts is wide-ranging. It includes scrutinizing donations to Democratic candidates, investigators’ past clients and Mr. Mueller’s relationship with James B. Comey, whose firing as F.B.I. director is part of the special counsel’s investigation.

The effort to investigate the investigators is another sign of a looming showdown between Mr. Trump and Mr. Mueller, who has assembled a team of high-powered prosecutors and agents to examine whether any of Mr. Trump’s advisers aided Russia’s campaign to disrupt last year’s presidential election.

Some of the investigators have vast experience prosecuting financial malfeasance, and the prospect that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry could evolve into an expansive examination of Mr. Trump’s financial history has stoked fears among the president’s aides. Both Mr. Trump and his aides have said publicly they are watching closely to ensure Mr. Mueller’s investigation remains narrowly focused on last year’s election.

In particular, Trump doesn't want that investigation going anywhere near his precious tax returns.

He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.

Man oh man, there's gotta be some goodies in there, but before we seen them, Team Trump will surely be doing everything in its power to scuttle the investigation.

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Posted by msmash

Intel has jumped into the fray surrounding the Apple-Qualcomm patent spat by accusing the world's biggest maker of mobile phone chips of trying to use the courts to snuff out competition. From a report: The chip giant made the allegation late Thursday in a public statement (PDF) to US International Trade Commission. The commission had requested the statement as part of its investigation into Qualcomm's accusation that Apple's iPhones of infringe six of Qualcomm's mobile patents. Specifically, Intel said, the case is about quashing competition from Intel, which described itself as "Qualcomm's only remaining competitor" in the market for chips for cellular phones. "Qualcomm did not initiate this investigation to stop the alleged infringement of its patent rights; rather, its complaint is a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm's only remaining rival," Intel said in its statement. "This twisted use of the Commission's process is just the latest in a long line of anticompetitive strategies that Qualcomm has used to quash incipient and potential competitors and avoid competition on the merits."

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