The First Sunset of Fall, 2017

Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:19 am
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Posted by John Scalzi

Featuring an Amish gentleman on a recumbent bicycle. As all the best first sunsets of fall do.

So long, summer. You did all right.


[personal profile] somervilleplanning posting in [community profile] davis_square
Monday, September 25, 6-8 p.m.

Tufts Administration Building (TAB), 167 Holland Street, Senior Center, 2nd Floor

Join the City Planning Department for a special update and discussion on the Davis Square Neighborhood Plan. We’re excited to present this meeting with the help of a facilitator who specializes in a meeting format designed to give participants control of the discussion topics. First, city staff will offer an update on the plan started in 2013/14 as well as a look at next steps. Then, to address outstanding topics and ensure that any new ideas and goals are identified, our facilitator will use the Round Robin meeting format, which asks participants to bring up topics for small-group discussions. In short, participants will set the agenda for the night and also shape topics for the next meeting.

At the second meeting in this series on October 19 (at the Community Baptist Church, 31 College Ave. 6-8 p.m.), we’ll take a deeper dive into the community-selected topics and identify action steps to address the goals and needs related to each. City staff will bring in resources and experts on the topic areas selected in the first meeting to serve as a resource during discussions.

Whether your concerns are open space, traffic, parking, streetscape, bicycle infrastructure, housing or more, we hope you’ll join us.

Unfortunately we cannot monitor this page, so if have any questions or need any more information, please contact us at planning@somervillema.org

For more information about Davis Square Neighborhood Planning visit https://www.somervillebydesign.com/neighborhood-planning/davis-square/
[syndicated profile] overcoming_bias_feed

Posted by Robin Hanson

In general, adaptive systems vary along an axis from general to specific. A more general system works better (either directly or after further adaptation) in a wider range of environments, and also with a wider range of other adapting systems. It does this in part via having more useful modularity and abstraction. In contrast, a more specific system adapts to a narrower range of specific environments and other subsystems.

Systems that we humans consciously design tend to be more general, i.e., less context dependent, relative to the “organic” systems that they often replace. For example, compare grid-like city street plans to locally evolved city streets, national retail outlets to locally arising stores and restaurants, traditional to permaculture farms, hotel rooms to private homes, big formal firms to small informal teams, uniforms to individually-chosen clothes, and refactored to un-refactored software. The first entity in each pair tends to more easily scale and to match more environments, while the second in each pair tends to be adapted in more detail to particular local conditions.

The book Seeing Like a State describes how states often impose more general systems in order to help them tax and monitor locals, replacing a previous variety of systems of law, language, names, etc. Human minds start out general and flexible when young, and become more specific and inflexible as they age. Large software systems tend to evolve over time from general to specific. At first, the developers of large software systems better understand their architectures, and can more easily change them, even if users are less satisfied with specific system features. Later on, such systems contain more user-requested features, but have architectures that are less well understood or changeable.

More specific systems are more at risk from big changes to their environment, but with only modest environmental variation they tend to be better adapted to local conditions. That is, most successful biological and cultural systems in our world are not very general. Specific systems have even stronger advantages when a set of systems adapt together to each other. When environmental changes remain modest, such sets of mutual adapted systems can entrench themselves indefinitely; to win, competitors must replace the entire set of systems with new variations.

Consider the example of biological cells. For eons, cells faced the world individually, and evolved complex interdependent sets of subsystems to deal with this difficult task. The sharing of cell part designs created pressures for designs to be somewhat general; designs that could work in more situations could be more widely shared. Even so, cell subsystems tended to become well adapted to each other, and the whole set of standard cell designs has become rather entrenched.

The cells in the human body vary by a factor of at least one hundred thousand in volume. This shows that standard cell designs embody substantial generality with respect to cell size. Yet even this generality has its limits; it was apparently very hard to stretch standard cell designs to create single-cell organisms good enough to compete with the familiar large organisms we see in our world. Evolution instead opted to create multicellular organisms — many small cells grouped together to create a single large unit.

Pause to notice the enormous waste involved in this choice. Each cell in a multicellular organism redundantly retains most of the features needed to exist as a single cell creature in a hostile world, even though it no longer lives in such a hostile world. It has its own barrier against the world, and is careful to control what goes across this barrier. It has its own sensors to detect dangers and opportunities outside, and a full range of local manufacturing abilities. Instead of taking advantage of the sort of production scale economies that are central to our industrial economy, each cell makes almost everything for itself!

But if you think that a strongly competitive environment couldn’t possibly tolerate such inefficiency, then you just don’t appreciate the titanic power of entrenched systems. Over eons, standard cell designs became a very well honed and oiled machine, with thousands of parts all carefully designed to fit well with each other. To create a similarly effective large organism that isn’t built out of many small cells, evolution would have to mostly start over and search a very long time in the space of designs for much larger systems. Yes, eventually it might find much better designs, but before then it might have to search as nearly as long and hard as it had previously searched to find small cell designs. So far, that has just been a bridge too far for biological evolution. Far too far. For a half billion years, evolution has much preferred the small-cell bird in the hand to the new-big-organism bird that might be found after searching an astronomical-sized bush.

Now consider the future prospects for human minds if they compete as workers with other kinds of software. Assume that we will eventually find a way (as with ems) to extract the software in human minds from the hardware in which it is now embedded, so that human mind software faces no hardware advantages relative to other kinds of software. Given this assumption, the question becomes: how effective is human mind software relative to other kinds of software in accomplishing future mental/computational tasks?

Some think it obvious that because human minds evolved to win in a distant past environment, they couldn’t possibly win in a different future environment. But this same logic would also conclude that small single cells couldn’t possibly win when biological evolution selects for larger organisms. It ignores the possibility that human minds may be valuable carefully-honed packages of interdependent systems resulting from a vast evolutionary heritage. The future might not be willing to fund the enormous search required to find something very different and better. At least during a future era that lasts long enough to have an importance comparable to the last half billion years of multicellular animals.

Human brains are “general” in the sense of being able to do a rather wide range of tasks moderately well. However, they don’t seem to achieve this via a consistent design “generality” of the sort discussed above. Compared to the software that we humans write, the software in our brains is in many ways less general, abstract, and modular. In our brains, events are poorly synchronized, hardware is mixed up with software, memory is mixed up with processing, addresses are mixed up with contents, and doing is mixed up with learning; this doesn’t happen in the more modular better abstracted systems we design. While our brain has distinguishable subsystems, these subsystems are far more interconnected and less modular than in typical software systems.

When evolution honed the human brain, and its animal brain ancestors, it faced strong space limits. Most software was tied to dedicated hardware, and brains could only hold a limited amount of hardware. When we humans write software, in contrast, we quickly achieve modest competence via abstraction and modularity, which is helped by our having plenty of space to store software separately from hardware when not in use. When we want software to do a new thing, we mostly just write a new tool to do it. But brains had to instead make do with continuing over a very long time to change and reintegrate its existing tools.

The net result is that, compared to familiar software, the human brain is a marvel of highly integrated tools, each of which is useful in many task contexts. But this integration came at great cost in evolutionary search, and these subsystems are now highly entrenched and entangled with each other, and with supporting social systems. So like the carefully honed cells in multicellular animals, future competitive minds may prefer to often reuse human brains, modified to the modest degrees possible in such a huge tangled legacy software system that no one understands well. Not everything in a multi cellar animal is a small cell; there are bones and blood fluids, for example. But most of it is cells.

One big disadvantage of the integrated non-modular brains is that you have to devote an entire brain to do most any task, even very simple tasks. For the last century, we have found humans doing many tasks that could also be done by rather simple and cheap combinations of hardware and software. For obvious reasons, we have automated these tasks first. But eventually we will run out of tasks that can easily be done by computers much smaller than human brains. At that point we will face a less obvious choice: give the task to some variation on a well-integrated human mind, or write a big pile of software to do it.  Or a variation on these, such as software written by software.

Humans won’t always win that contest, but it seems plausible that for a long time they may often win. Human-like minds will probably win more often in tasks that are highly tangled with other tasks that such minds do. This includes thinks like law, marketing, regulation, and planning, and meta-tasks, such as in management and governance. When human-like minds are modified, their most highly tangled networks for conscious thought and mind-wandering may change the least, at least for a long time. In this sort of world, minds very different from humans may not often be given tasks with a wide enough scope of action to be very dangerous. While this future could be very strange to actually see, it might still be less strange than many of you feared that it might be.

[syndicated profile] boston_restaurant_feed
It looks like a tea house is on its way to Brookline, and it will be moving into the space where a chain of bakery-cafes used to be.

According to an article in the Brookline TAB, Gen Sou En Tea House is planning to open in Coolidge Corner, taking over the old Panera spot on Harvard Street. A sign in the window states that the place will be a "modern Japanese tea house" with Japanese green tea and black tea along with coffee, beer, wine, and sake, and it will also serve savory foods and bakery items while being open for breakfast, lunch, and (a light) dinner. If all goes as planned, Gen Sou En Tea House could be opening in January of 2018.

Panera closed its Coolidge Corner location in June after approximately 10 years in business.

The address for this upcoming tea house in Coolidge Corner is: Gen Sou En Tea House, 299 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA, 02446. Its website will be at http://www.gensouenteahouse.com/

Thanks to BostonTweet for initially bringing this to our attention.

Follow us on Twitter at @hiddenboston


[Related article from our sister site (Boston's Hidden Restaurants): Slideshow--Twelve Food Items from Asian Restaurants in the Boston Area]





[syndicated profile] google_blog_feed

We enjoyed all the fun in the sun with #teampixel this summer. From a whirlwind tour around the globe to getting one with nature, our Pixel photographers shared some stunning shots that gave us the chills (in a good way). Before we head into fall, we’re paying one last homage to the warmer months with a series spotlighting the cooler tones. Thanks for keeping us cool this summer, #teampixel. 😎

Shout out to @nemod96, whose photo is featured above and makes an appearance on our Instagram today. Tag your photos with #teampixel and you could be featured, too. 

Get a final taste of summer in this week’s roundup of #teampixel photos.
[syndicated profile] doctorow_blog_feed

Posted by Cory Doctorow

On Monday, the World Wide Web Consortium published EME, a standard for locking up video on the web with DRM, allowing large corporate members to proceed without taking any steps to protect accessibility work, security research, archiving or innovation.


I spent years working to get people to pay attention to the ramifications of the effort, but was stymied by the deadly combination of an issue that was super-technical and complicated, as well as kind of boring (standards-making is a slow-moving, legalistic process).

This is really the worst kind of problem, an issue that matters but that requires a lot of technical knowledge and sustained attention to engage with. I wrote up a postmortem on the effort for Wired.


The W3C is a multistakeholder body based on consensus, and that means that members are expected to compromise to find common ground. So we returned with a much milder proposal: we’d stand down on objecting to EME, provided that the consortium promised only to invoke laws such as the DMCA in tandem with some other complaint, like copyright infringement. That meant studios and their technology partners could always sue when someone infringed copyright, or stole trade secrets, or interfered with contractual arrangements, but they would not be able to abuse the W3C process to claim the right to sue over otherwise legal activities, such as automatically analysing videos to prevent strobe effects from triggering seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy.

This proposal was a way to get at the leadership’s objection: if the law was making the mischief, then let us take the law off the table (EFF is also suing the US government to get the law overturned, but that could take years, far too long in web-time). More importantly, if EME’s advocates refused to negotiate on this point, it would suggest that they planned on using the law to enforce “rights” that they really shouldn’t have, such as the right to decide who could adapt video for people with disabilities, or whether national archives could exercise their statutory rights to make deposit copies of copyrighted works.

But EME’s proponents – a collection of browser vendors, entertainment industry trade bodies, and companies selling products based on EME – refused to negotiate. After 90 days of desultory participation, the W3C leaders allowed the process to die. Despite this intransigence, the W3C executive renewed the EME working group’s charter and allowed it to continue its work, even as the cracks among the W3C’s membership on the standard’s fate deepened.

By the time EME was ready to publish, those cracks had deepened further. The poll results on EME showed the W3C was more divided on this matter than on any in its history. Again, the W3C leadership put its thumbs on the scales for the entertainment industry’s wish-lists over the open web’s core requirements, and overrode every single objection raised by the members.

Boring, complex and important: a recipe for the web’s dire future
[Cory Doctorow/Wired]

The Center Cafe in Needham Has Closed

Sep. 21st, 2017 05:58 pm
[syndicated profile] boston_restaurant_feed
An upscale suburban restaurant known in part for its regional fare has closed its doors.

According to an article in the Needham Times, The Center Cafe in Needham shut down for good this week after being sold this past Monday, with owner Steve Waller saying that one reason for the closure of the Great Plain Avenue spot is his stepson and chef Jonathan Taufman being hurt in a car accident in March, though there were other factors as well. The post says that a new restaurant is planning to move into the space, so stay tuned as more information on that spot gets released

The Center Cafe first opened in early 2010, taking over the space where Fava had been. The restaurant featured New England fare along with wine and cocktails.

The address for this now-closed restaurant in Needham was: The Center Cafe, 1027 Great Plain Avenue, Needham, MA, 02492.

Follow us on Twitter at @hiddenboston


[A related post from our sister site (Boston's Hidden Restaurants): List of Restaurant Closings and Openings in the Boston Area]





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Posted by Perry Bacon Jr.

Everyone should have seen the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill coming. But we didn’t.

Democrats had spent months defending the Affordable Care Act — and they appeared to have succeeded. So just over a week ago, a group of liberal members of the U.S. Senate rolled out their proposal to create a Medicare-for-all program. The group, led by Bernie Sanders, didn’t directly say, “We saved Obamacare, so now it’s time to move on to something even more liberal,” but that was the gist.

How did Democrats end up getting caught so flat-footed, putting out a single-payer proposal that essentially has no chance of becoming law until the White House changes hands while an effort to repeal one of the party’s signature achievements of the last decade gained strength? Because aside from Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, basically everyone in Washington — Republicans, Democrats, the media — assumed the Obamacare repeal effort was dead. Two weeks ago, President Trump was suggesting that Republicans needed to give up on Obamacare repeal and focus on tax reform, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee was writing a bipartisan bill to fix Obamacare and Senate Republican leaders were downplaying the possibility that the Obamacare repeal effort would be revived.

So what happened?

Most importantly: Dean Heller of Nevada moved from a weak no to a firm yes — but no one really noticed.

The rise of Graham-Cassidy began on the afternoon of July 27 — hours before the Obamacare repeal effort seemed to die in the Senate. (GOP Sens. Susan Collins, John McCain and Lisa Murkowski formally voted down the “skinny” repeal after 1 a.m. on July 28.)

On that summer Thursday, Heller — who had been one of the Republican holdouts on a bunch of other Obamacare repeal proposals, arguing they cut Medicaid too deeplybecame a co-sponsor of the Graham-Cassidy bill. (Estimates suggest Graham-Cassidy will cut federal dollars going to states for health care by up to $400 billion from 2020-2026, much less than the more than $700 billion in estimated Medicaid cuts that were included in some of the proposals Heller opposed.)

It’s not totally clear why Heller signed on to Graham-Cassidy. He may have assumed it would never actually come up for a vote. He may have been worried about re-election: Republican donors in Nevada were reportedly warning Heller that they wouldn’t give him money for his 2018 re-election effort unless he backed Obamacare repeal, and Trump suggested he would oppose Heller in a GOP primary if the senator didn’t join the cause. Or perhaps Heller simply believes in the Graham-Cassidy model of health care policy reform, which would send most Obamacare funds back to states.

Either way, co-sponsoring the bill was an odd move for Heller, largely because he had previously suggested he would back only legislation that both preserved the expanded Medicaid funding Nevada had received through Obamacare and had the support of the state’s GOP governor, Brian Sandoval. Even in July, it was clear that Graham-Cassidy would likely reduce the number of federal dollars going to Nevada for Medicaid, which is further supported by recent estimates. Sandoval didn’t endorse the legislation back then, and this week he joined a bipartisan group of governors opposing it.

Whatever his reasons, Heller’s support was key, making the Senate math much easier for Cassidy and Graham. Back in July, only three GOP senators (Collins, Heller and Murkowski) had been strong opponents of the Obamacare repeal bills, voting down both the full repeal of Obamacare and a partial repeal largely written by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. (Of the 52 GOP senators, the other 49 voted for at least one of those two provisions.)

The last-ditch “skinny” repeal bill (which did not include Medicaid cuts) was widely expected to pass because Heller supported it, providing what was thought to be the crucial 50th vote. But at the last minute, his “no” vote was replaced by McCain’s.

In other words, at the end of July, Republicans still had two months left to repeal Obamacare and only two real, solid opponents of their repeal ideas: Collins and Murkowski. They were the only ones to vote against all versions of the repeal, though a number of their GOP colleagues had also said they were reluctant to support various bills. Despite expressing concerns about protecting Medicaid, Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Rob Portman of Ohio all eventually voted for a version of Obamacare repeal that would have cut Medicaid spending. So did McCain, who said some of his objections to the “skinny” repeal bill were about the process by which it had been written (without any Democratic input and without going through the traditional committees and hearings). Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, two of most conservative GOP senators, had voted for “skinny” repeal, despite complaining that the Obamacare repeal proposals left much of the ACA in place.

So assuming Murkowski and Collins were the only real holdouts, Heller’s support gave the Obamacare repeal 50 votes — at least in theory.

Meanwhile, Cassidy and Graham spent much of August and early September touting their bill. Senate Republican leaders were not enthusiastic about coming back from their summer recess to face another attempt at an Obamacare repeal. Neither were rank-and-file senators. But no senator was actually saying, “I will vote against this bill if it comes to the floor.”

Fast forward to this week and it’s easy to see why Senate Republicans want to give Obamacare repeal a final try. Yes, McCain is a problem, because this bill is, like the July legislation, a GOP-only proposal written outside of the traditional committee process. And he demonstrated in July that he is not afraid to be the deciding vote against an Obamacare repeal.

But McCain has not really given any policy-driven reasons for voting this bill down. And Graham is a very close friend of his. He may still vote yes.

Paul ultimately backed the skinny repeal bill in July despite his early objections, so Republican leaders are probably betting that his threats to vote against this bill are also empty. That’s not an unreasonable assumption.

Collins and Murkowski still sound like “no” votes, and they consistently voted “no” before. But if Collins and Murkowski are the only noes, the Republicans can pass Graham-Cassidy. So look for Paul and McCain to get plenty of calls from the White House and fellow Republicans imploring them to back this legislation, and for the Democrats to back off talking about Medicare-for-all for a bit. In short, the GOP is exactly where it was at the end of July, but with much less time left to get a deal done.

[syndicated profile] google_blog_feed

Editor’s note: this is the first article in a five-part series on Google Hangouts.

I’ve worked at Google for more than a decade and have seen the company expand across geographies—including to Stockholm where I have worked from day one. My coworkers and I build video conferencing technology to help global teams work better together.

It’s sometimes easy to forget what life was like before face-to-face video conferencing (VC) at work, but we struggled with many of the same issues that other companies deal with—cobbled together communication technologies, dropped calls, expensive solutions. Here’s a look at how we transitioned Google to be a cloud video meeting-first company.

2004 - 2007: Life before Hangouts

In the mid-2000s, Google underwent explosive growth. We grew from nearly 3,000 employees to more than 17,000 across 40 offices globally. Historically, we relied on traditional conference phone bridging and email to communicate across time zones, but phone calls don’t exactly inspire creativity and tone gets lost in translation with email threads.

We realized that the technology we used didn’t mirror how our teams actually like to work together. If I want to sort out a problem or present an idea, I’d rather be face-to-face with my team, not waiting idly on a conference bridge line.

Google decided to go all in on video meetings. We outsourced proprietary video conferencing (VC) technology and outfitted large meeting rooms with these devices. 

If I need to sort out a problem or present an idea, I’d rather be face-to-face with my team, not waiting idly on a conference bridge line.
Hangouts 1
A conference room in Google’s Zurich office in 2007 which had outsourced VC technology.

While revolutionary, this VC technology was extremely costly. Each unit could cost upwards of $50,000, and that did not include support, licensing and network maintenance fees. To complicate matters, the units were powered by complex, on-prem infrastructure and required several support technicians. By 2007, nearly 2,400 rooms were equipped with the technology.

Then we broke it.

The system was built to host meetings for team members in the office, but didn't cater to people on the go. As more and more Googlers used video meetings, we reached maximum capacity on the technology’s infrastructure and experienced frequent dropped calls and poor audio/visual (AV) quality. I even remember one of the VC bridges catching on fire! We had to make a change.

2008 - 2013: Taking matters into our own hands

In 2008, we built our own VC solution that could keep up with the rate at which we were growing. We scaled with software and moved meetings to the cloud.

Our earliest “Hangouts” prototype was Gmail Video Chat, a way to connect with contacts directly in Gmail. Hours after releasing the service to the public, it had hundreds of thousands of users.

Gmail voice and video chat

The earliest software prototype for video conferencing at Google, Gmail Video Chat.

Hangouts 2

Arthur van der Geer tests out the earliest prototype for Hangouts, go/meet. 

While a good start, we knew we couldn’t scale group video conferencing within Gmail. We built our second iteration, which tied meeting rooms to unique URLs. We introduced it to Googlers in 2009 and the product took off.

During this journey, we also built our own infrastructure (WebRTC) so we no longer had to rely on third-party audio and video components. Our internal IT team created our own VC hardware prototypes; we used  touchscreen computers and custom software with the first version of Hangouts and called it “Google Video Conferencing” (“GVC” for short).

First Google Video Conferencing Prototype | 2008

Google engineers test the first Google Video Conferencing hardware prototype in 2008.

With each of these elements, we had now built our earliest version of Hangouts. After a few years of testing—and widespread adoption by Googlers—we made the platform available externally to customers in 2014 (“Chromebox for Meetings”). In the first two weeks, we sold more than 2,000 units. By the end of the year, every Google conference room and company device had access to VC.

2014 - today: Transforming how businesses do business

GIF test

Nearly a decade has passed since we built the first prototype. Face-to-face collaboration is ingrained in Google’s DNA now—more than 16,500 meetings rooms are VC-equipped at Google and our employees join Hangouts 240,000 times per day! That's equivalent to spending more than 10 years per day collaborating in video meetings. And, now, more than 3 million businesses are using Hangouts to transform how they work too.

We learned a lot about what it takes to successfully collaborate as a scaling business. If you’re looking to transition your meetings to the cloud with VC, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Encourage video engagement from the start. Every good idea needs a champion. Be seen as an innovator by evangelizing video engagement in company meetings from the start. Your team will thank you for it.
  2. If you’re going to move to VC, make it available everywhere. We transformed our work culture to be video meeting-first because we made VC ubiquitous. Hangouts Meet brings you a consistent experience across web, mobile and conference rooms.  If you’re going to make the switch, go all in and make it accessible to everyone.
  3. Focus on the benefits. Video meetings can help distributed teams feel more engaged and help employees collaborate whenever, and wherever, inspiration strikes. This means you’ll have more diverse perspectives which makes for better quality output.

What’s next? Impactful additions and improvements to Hangouts Meet will be announced soon. All the while, we’re continuing to research how teams work together and how we can evolve VC technology to reflect that collaboration. For example, we’re experimenting with making scheduling easier for teams thanks to the @meet AI bot in the early adopter version of Hangouts Chat.

Related Article

Meet the new Hangouts

Last year, we talked about doubling down on our enterprise focus for Hangouts and our commitment to building communication tools focused ...

Read Article
Editor’s note: this is the first article in a five-part series on Google Hangouts.
[syndicated profile] google_blog_feed

Editor’s note: From instant access to medical records, to telemedicine in rural areas, connectivity in the health sector has the power to improve lives. In this guest post, Soledad Munoz Lopez, CIO of the Chilean Ministry of Health, shares with us how Chile implemented a national API-based architecture to help bring better health to millions.

Not long ago, Chile’s Ministry of Health (MINSAL) faced an enormous challenge. Chile’s 1,400 connected health facilities and 1,000 remote medical facilities lacked connectivity, and many of its healthcare systems could not easily interoperate. This meant healthcare providers couldn’t always expect to have fast and easy access to medical records.

Earlier efforts to centralize and manage medical records across facilities fell apart because they were costly and far too laborious. And as a result, we missed out on a lot of opportunities. We came to realize that we needed a new approach to IT architecture.

To help ensure that data, applications and services are securely available when and where they’re needed, I’m helping to lead the implementation of a national API-based architecture, powered by Google Cloud’s Apigee. From facilitating smoother public-private partnerships to enabling wider use of services such as telemedicine, we see this as a critical and aggressive move to rapidly improve wellness for our millions of citizens and visitors.

The API-first architecture aligns with a variety of MINSAL’s healthcare efforts, including a national program to connect unconnected healthcare centers, and a plan to digitize all clinic and administrative processes, both for major hospitals and local clinics and primary care centers. It also helps MINSAL’s strategic work, such as better leveraging data and connectivity for public alerts, population health management programs and the Public Health Surveillance initiatives needed for planning and execution of public health policy.

Connecting Chile’s healthcare system

One of the primary areas of concern addressed by the new digital architecture is the ease and speed of integration. As noted above, it’s important that whenever a patient is treated anywhere in Chile, the clinical teams and the patient have access to all the information that has been generated for that patient, regardless of where this information was recorded. This includes data from other health clinics, public or private institutions, laboratories, radiology and images and clinical equipment.

This variety of data sources typifies the diverse heterogenous environment that an API-first architecture needs to address: applications, devices, patient record systems, management systems, scheduling and so on. Most of these pieces within the MINSAL ecosystem were never designed to interoperate. We chose an API-first approach because APIs abstract all of this back-end complexity into predictable, consistent interfaces that allow developers to more quickly and efficiently connect data, services and apps across the nationwide system. The result is a more seamless experience for doctors and patients and a secure but agile infrastructure for MINSAL.

In a previous attempt to efficiently and scalably integrate health records, started in 2005, Chile utilized a centralized SOA-based architecture. This strategy turned out to be an expensive and inflexible way to try and achieve interoperability. The integration expenses were projected to require at least three times the current budget—untenable in a country where the total budget for development of clinical records is about $40 million annually.

Yet far larger are the costs to the users of an unconnected system, including unnecessary travel, duplication of exams and out of pocket costs in general.  

Working with Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and local system integrators such as Tecnodata, MINSAL is implementing a health systems technology investment strategy that is much more efficient. The API-based architecture enables any IT professional in any of Chile’s organizations, facilities, institutions and providers to onboard their information systems in an organized, more secure, self-service manner.  

This helps make the national program much more scalable, and involves local industry experts more closely. In addition, these entities can continue to evolve their own local systems as they need, as long as they’re compliant with the common integration strategy. MINSAL has established the policy that all data records be based on API-centric standards like FHIR and HL7, with images based on DICOM.   

All of these connectivity and interoperability efforts help enable important services that benefit Chilean citizens, such as telemedicine. Telemedicine, which enables patients to avoid unnecessary travel and relocation while under medical care, is highly developed in five specialties in Chile: teledermatology, teleophthalmology, telenephrology, teleradiology and tele-electrocardiography.  

An API platform for a healthy future

The Apigee platform has been the accelerator for the entire program, providing visibility and controls that make APIs easier to manage. It also saves MINSAL from needing to develop API management features that Apigee provides built right into the platform, such as key management, identity brokering, traffic routing, cyber-threat management, data caching, collection of analytics, developer management, developer portal and many others. As a result of the success of this program, we’re moving towards API-based strategies in more than just the health sector. Here are a few examples:

  • A single registry of individual and institutional health providers

  • An identity service integrated with the National Identity Registry

  • A birth pre-registry

  • A verification of identity service for use during emergency medical services

  • A national pharmaceutical terminology service

  • A patient portal (including pregnancy support, for example)

  • Electronic immunization records

  • Traceability and management of national health insurance accounts

  • An electronic medical prescription model


The API platform helps professionals in the entire network of healthcare systems in Chile access patient information throughout the care cycle. MINSAL was able to reduce costs through sharing  information, eliminating delays and reducing the duplication of medical tests. The platform also provides information to apps and websites used by patients, enabling them to see and gradually empower themselves with their own health data.

The promotion of preventive healthcare is a critically important initiative in Chile. API technology supports the monitoring of epidemiological changes in the population, consuming information from operational systems, through the same Apigee API platform that is already interfacing with all the health establishments. This means we now have far better data to begin testing machine learning  and use our big data to help focus our health programs on impactful outcomes.

Chile is a  leader among Latin American national health programs, and works closely with other countries and organizations to develop and coordinate programs and policies. By working with GCP and adopting an API-based architecture with the explicit goal of improving outcomes and the efficacy of the health care system, we hope to inspire others and pave the way to better health for billions of people.  

[syndicated profile] google_blog_feed


Companies around the world deploy Android to mobilize employees and transform their businesses. No matter the use case, we know that a successful deployment is about more than just selecting the right devices; it's about getting them configured and rolled out into the hands of users as quickly and easily as possible.

Today we’re launching a new deployment method called zero-touch enrollment to make Android rollouts more seamless and secure. With zero-touch enrollment, companies can configure the devices they purchase and have them shipped with management and settings pre-configured, so employees can get up and running out of the box.

Zero touch pixel demo

For administrators, zero-touch enrollment removes the need for users to configure their devices manually and ensures that devices always have corporate policies in place. Support is also much easier, with no extra steps for end-users; they just sign in and get access to their work apps and data.  

Zero-touch is available on devices purchased from our zero-touch carrier partners, and we’re excited to partner with Verizon to offer zero-touch enrollment on the Pixel, phone by Google, starting today.

“For our business customers, deploying new devices and services securely with the ability to enforce device-specific policies is critical for protecting proprietary information and an organization's brand,” says Ryan O’Shea, vice president of National Business Channels with Verizon Wireless. "The Android zero-touch enrollment program allows our business customers to get up and running seamlessly and securely, and we are excited today to introduce this initiative on the Pixel phone and other future Android devices.”

We’re working with our device partners including Samsung, Huawei, Sony, LG Electronics, HMD Global Oy Home of Nokia Phones, BlackBerry smartphones, HTC, Motorola, Honeywell, Zebra, and Sonim with additional OEMs to be added soon to deliver the zero-touch experience to enterprises. The Huawei Mate 10, Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact specifically will be among the first devices to support zero-touch in the coming weeks and of course, other devices from our OEM partners will launch soon.

Organizations can use software from leading enterprise mobility management providers (EMMs) including VMware AirWatch, BlackBerry, MobileIron, IBM, SOTI, GSuite and others to specify configurations and device policies that are automatically applied to employees’ mobile devices during the initial setup.

If your company already uses other enrollment methods, don't worry — you can mix enrollment methods to suit your particular needs. Samsung will continue to offer Knox Mobile Enrollment (KME) on Samsung devices, including pre-Oreo devices. Samsung devices that upgrade to, or ship with, Android Oreo will have zero-touch as an additional option. Other existing enrollment methods like QR code and NFC bump will continue to be supported across Android.

Keen to get started with zero-touch? Talk to our carrier partners who plan to offer zero-touch:


  • USA: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile

  • Europe: BT, Deutsche Telekom


  • Asia-Pacific: Softbank, Telstra


To learn more, visit our zero-touch page.

Zero‑touch enrollment enables large scale Android deployments across multiple device makers so organizations can mobilize their employees with speed, ease and security.
[syndicated profile] boston_restaurant_feed
A suburban restaurant that has been featured on our sister site as an under-the-radar place to go to for Chinese and Asian fusion fare is closing, and a new dining spot is moving into the space.

According to a Facebook post from the place, Cheng Du in Stoughton is shutting down for good today, with the note thanking customers and referring people to their other two restaurants in Mansfield and Westborough. The post says that Ming Du, a new restaurant under different ownership, will open in the Washington Street space tomorrow.

Cheng Du, which has been in Stoughton for more than 20 years, has been reviewed on the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site, with a link to the review being below:

http://www.hiddenboston.com/ChengDu.html

The address for Cheng Du (and the upcoming Ming Du) is 657 Washington Street, Stoughton, MA, 02072.

Follow us on Twitter at @hiddenboston


[Related article from our sister site (Boston's Hidden Restaurants): Slideshow--Twelve Food Items from Asian Restaurants in the Boston Area]





In bed with the enemy

Sep. 21st, 2017 06:55 pm
luzribeiro: (Default)
[personal profile] luzribeiro posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
Yeah, Trump again. Got fed up with these Trump posts, eh? Can't help it, sorry. :-)

He may've been a major douche, but for the last couple of weeks he has strained the nerves of his fellow party clergy to the brink. I'm talking about the debt ceiling deal, where he decided to side with the Dems and postpone the debates on the debt ceiling for another 3 months. Oh, and he also may've supported a motion to legalize the status of illegal immigrants (DACA), and even had a dinner with Pelosi and Schumer over the issue.

He heeded Pelosi's request and wrote some tweets that was meant to calm down the immigrants that they wouldn't be deported (let me note again that nobody from Trump's PR team has any control over what he tweets - well, turns out, Nancy Pelosi might have). Then he supported Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) who had some, let's call them difficulties before the election. And now he's hinting that the US might actually stay in the Paris Agreement. What the hell's happening?


Read more... )

Why Attitudes Matter

Sep. 21st, 2017 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] thingofthings_feed

Posted by ozymandias

Sometimes when I am giving ethical advice to people I say things like “it’s important to think of yourself and your partner as being on the same team” or “just remember that women in short skirts are almost certainly not wearing short skirts to arouse you in particular” or “cultivate your curiosity and desire to know what’s actually going on.”

I get pushback on this. After all, I am a consequentialist. Why am I talking about people’s attitudes instead of their actions? It doesn’t matter what I think of the woman in the short skirt, as long as I refrain from being a dick to her because of her clothing choices.

An emphasis on attitudes can be really bad for some people. Some people, having been given the advice that they should cultivate their curiosity, will spend a lot of time navel-gazing about whether they’re really curious and whether this curiosity counts as curiosity and maybe they are self-deceiving and actually just want to prove themselves right. Not only is this really unpleasant, but if you’re spending all your time navel-gazing about whether you’re sufficiently curious you’re never actually going to go buy a book about the Abbasid empire. It completely fails to achieve the original goal. If this is a problem you’re prone to, I think my attitude-based advice is probably not going to be helpful, although I can’t give any other advice; I personally get as much navel-gazing as I can stand trying to keep my obviously shitty attitudes in check, and don’t have any introspective energy left over for anything else.

Nevertheless, I think an attitude emphasis can be really important, for two reasons.

First, for any remotely complicated situation, it would be impossible to completely list out all the things which are okay or not okay. For instance, think about turning my “think of yourself and your partner as being on the same team” advice into a series of actions. You might say “it is wrong to insult your partner during disagreements.” But for some people, insults are part of resolving disagreements. Saying “I am not sure you’ve really thought this through” rather than “that is the stupidest fucking idea I’ve ever heard” feels artificial to them, like they’re walking on eggshells. For them, intimacy requires the ability to say exactly what you’re feeling, without softening it.

Or you might say “if you think of arguments for your partner’s side, then say it.” However, this might lead you to fall victim to what C S Lewis in the Screwtape Letters called the Generous Conflict Illusion:

Later on you can venture on what may be called the Generous Conflict Illusion. This game is best played with more than two players, in a family with grown-up children for example. Something quite trivial, like having tea in the garden, is proposed. One member takes care to make it quite clear (though not in so many words) that he would rather not but is, of course, prepared to do so out of “Unselfishness”. The others instantly withdraw their proposal, ostensibly through their “Unselfishness”, but really because they don’t want to be used as a sort of lay figure on which the first speaker practices petty altruisms. But he is not going to be done out of his debauch of Unselfishness either. He insists on doing “what the others want”. They insist on doing what he wants. Passions are roused. Soon someone is saying “Very well then, I won’t have any tea at all!”, and a real quarrel ensues with bitter resentment on both sides. You see how it is done? If each side had been frankly contending for its own real wish, they would all have kept within the bounds of reason and courtesy; but just because the contention is reversed and each side is fighting the other side’s battle, all the bitterness which really flows from thwarted self-righteousness and obstinacy and the accumulated grudges of the last ten years is concealed from them by the nominal or official “Unselfishness” of what they are doing or, at least, held to be excused by it. Each side is, indeed, quite alive to the cheap quality of the adversary’s Unselfishness and of the false position into which he is trying to force them; but each manages to feel blameless and ill-used itself, with no more dishonesty than comes natural to a human.

Or you might say “if your partner seems to be making a mistake, give them some friendly advice, without being overly critical.” But some people are naturally controlling– not abusive, just the sort of people who get upset when their partner loads the dishes a different way than they’re used to or prefers to read a map rather than using the GPS. Those people might very well decide that they shouldn’t give any friendly advice, for much the same reason that an alcoholic shouldn’t go to a bar. It never stops after one.

If you are thinking about the situations from a position of “my partner and I are both on Team Our Collective Happiness And Well-Being,” then the answer to all these thorny situations becomes clear. You should give a word of friendly advice, unless you are the sort of person who is incapable of stopping at a word of friendly advice. You should speak in a way that makes your partner and you feel more intimate and able to resolve conflicts, rather than less so. You should say “hm, I think the vacation you want to go on is cheaper” but you should not do the Generous Conflict Illusion. And so on and so forth.

Second, an attitude emphasis prevents rules-lawyering. Whenever you list a set of actions, there are a certain number of people who will figure out how to get as close as possible to breaking the rules, and then complain when you get annoyed at them, because technically they didn’t break any rules. (Rules-lawyering is particularly likely to happen in issues of sexual ethics, but it is certainly not reserved for those situations.) For example, they might say “you said I wasn’t supposed to yell at my wife or call her nasty names! You never specifically said I wasn’t supposed to respond to my wife forgetting to do the dishes by piling up all the dirty dishes onto her bed.”

But obviously if you are two people cooperating to solve the problem of the dirty dishes piling up, “stick the dishes on the other person’s bed” is not how you would respond. (Unless, I guess, they agreed ahead of time that this was a useful if disgusting way to help them remember– like I said, it’s really hard to make hard-and-fast rules.) That is a way you’d respond if you’re approaching the situation as a war between you and your partner, and the winner is whoever gets a clean sink while having to do the least dishes. This is, to put it lightly, not a good way of solving your relationship problems.

I suspect that action-based advice works best in relatively simple situations where there aren’t a lot of possible actions and where there are few situations that require a judgment call: for instance, it works great for “don’t hit people unless they started it”. Attitude-based advice works best for complicated situations where there are lots of possible ways of fucking up: for instance, it works well for intimate relationships, intellectual or artistic life, and career choice.


[syndicated profile] boston_restaurant_feed
Last year, we reported that a neighborhood grocery store in Boston's South End of Boston had closed down and that the family of the owner--who had passed away--was looking to lease the space to someone who would open another market. Now we have learned that the space is indeed going to be home to a new grocery store.

According to its website, Muscarella's Market is opening in the former Five Seventy Market space on Tremont Street, with an earlier Boston Sun article indicating that the store had planned to soft-open over the summer and possibly have a grand opening this month. A licensing board hearing page actually shows that a petition to transfer the license of the business from Five Seventy Market to Muscarella's Market is expected to take place on September 27, so it appears that the soft opening has not happened as of yet. The Sun article indicates that owner Scott Jackiewicz is looking to keep a similar concept to that of the old market, including offering salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and prepared meals, but with his own "twist" on things.

Five Seventy Market shut down in February of 2016, with owner Allen Seletsky passing away the following month; the shop had been in business for a bit under 10 years.

The address for the upcoming Muscarella's Market is 570 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, 02118. Its website can be found at http://muscarellasmarket.com/

[Earlier Article]
Five Seventy Market in Boston's South End Closed; Status Uncertain

Follow us on Twitter at @hiddenboston


[A related post from our sister site (Boston's Hidden Restaurants): List of Restaurant Closings and Openings in the Boston Area]





[syndicated profile] popehat_feed

Posted by Popehat

Colin Cortbus, who has written here twice before about free speech issues in Germany, returns to discuss recent German censorship measures.

Angela Merkel‘s German government has decided to crush digital freedom of speech to silence opposing voices ahead of an election. The measures taken by the German government have chilling consequences for digital freedom worldwide – and Vladimir Putin‘s regime has already began to copy them.

After over 11 years in power, Germany‘s tired Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition partners appear to have panicked that they might underperform in the crucial, upcoming federal election in September.

It is not hard to see why. The circulations of mainstream newspapers, which traditionally mollycuddle the Germany‘s political establishment, have been uniformly falling. The only nationwide papers to make gains in sales at all in the last year were Der Freitag, an outspoken, left-liberal newspaper focused on opinion pieces, and Junge Freiheit, a national-conservative outlet strongly critical of the government. The Junge Freiheit‘s adversarial, if at times deeply disagreeable, reporting has long been a thorn in the side of Germany‘s political elite. Unspurprisingly, the newspaper was unconstitutionally targetted by the state‘s domestic intelligence agencies until 2007. To this day, the taxpayer-funded Federal Agency for Political Education warns the voting public that the paper represents a “key outlet of a radical nationalist opposition, which seeks a fundamental change in the social, political and cultural conditions in Germany“. That is an entirely fair, opinionated criticism of the paper‘s percieved mission if you are a private citizen. But it can hardly be deemed to be an ethically acceptable intervention into the debate when it comes from a publically-funded government agency with a legal duty to maintain “balance and distance pursuant to the rule of law“.

But even such Orwellian methods can‘t put a stop to the fact that increasingly, ordinary people are expressing scepticism towards the Government‘s official narratives – preferably via social media, where they can network more easily with like-minded people, often under the saving cover of anonymity. This makes old-style, brute force legal thuggery quite redundant. The government‘s inquisitorial hirelings might potentially be able to intimidate one or two frightened citizens into silence by threating to take vague, and constitutionally bogus measures; For example, police reportedly opened a “criminal investigation“ for “defamation“ against a speaker at an opposition party campaign rally in December who criticised Angela Merkel as „criminal and insane“. But against an ever-growing, often anonymous, sometimes out-of-control crowd of outspoken netizens, these crude, resource-intensive, individualised tactics are but a bureaucratic drop on the hot stone of popular discontent.

Absent of an easy route to get at the netizens themselves, what the government really needed was a quick way to force social media firms to make their platforms inhospitable environments for critical, dissident expression; But taking action against social media networks did not turn out to be all that easy.

In 2016, prosecutors had to humiliatingly drop a pointless, four month-long investigation into a German Facebook executive. The manager had been bizarrely accused in a citizen‘s criminal complaint of abetting racist incitement by puportedly not deleting hateful comments quickly enough – even though his personal role within the social media company did not actually have anything to do with content control.

But coercively targetting social media companies remained an attractive option for the German government. Outsourcing censorship to privately-owned social media firms presents a neat way to circumvene the high bar of constitutional scrutiny that would apply to the state if it tried to enact such censorship directly.

In this context, a tiny number of largely hard-line pro-Government legislators convened in an almost empty parliamentary chamber, just before the end of the last key pre-election Bundestag sitting, late in June. Without all too much ado, they quickly rubberstamped an ominous sounding law; the Netzwerkdurchstetztungsgesetz, or Network Enforcement Act in English.

On paper, the Network Enforcement Act is supposed to combat the purported dangers of “fake news“ and “hate crime“ on social media, in light of events related to the US presidential election.

But this is a poor, figleaf excuse for one of most Machiavellian anti-free speech laws in the Western world.

Surprisingly, the Network Enforcement Act itself does not create any new speech offences designed to better deal with the incitement of violent racial hatred or the glorification of terrorism. In fact it does not even confine itself improving the technical means to clamp down on such specific speech.

Far rather, it weaponises Germany‘s already wildly overbroad and repressive anti-insult and criminal libel laws, which have been previously highlighted on this website. Under these pre-existing, but often ineffectively or inconsistently enforced laws, truth is no absolute defence and even criticism of long-deceased historical figures can be criminalised.

Pursuant to the Network Enforcement Act, social media companies now face substantial fines of up to 50 million Euros if they fail to delete content that is “obviously illegal“ under these laws within 24 hours of recieving a complaint. The same fines apply if not-so-obviously illegal content is not deleted within one week. Moreover, social media companies are also obliged to respond to requests (possibly for data about allegedly criminal users) from state prosecutors within 48 hours – a fraction of the time it would take a good lawyer to write a letter disputing or refusing any mala fide requests.

German courts take months or years to decide whether or not certain speech counts as criminal libel or insult – and even then they often cannot agree. Social media companies cannot possibly accomplish the same in 7 days, much less 24 hours – and the Network Enforcement Law does not even attempt to define what is meant by an „obviously illegal“ posting that has to be deleted in 24 hours. As a result, social media companies will simply feel forced delete all and any disputed content, amid a flurry of malicious complaints from censorious politicians and businessmen who are keen to stifle criticism and inconvenient election campaigning. No wonder, given that experts estimate the fines and costs in case of non-compliance might set social media providers back by up to 530 million euros in total, annually.

Merkel‘s government knows all this full well. Legal experts have voiced strong criticisms of the Network Enforcement Act at parliamentary hearings. The government has been advised by its very own parliamentary research service that the law is in breach of European Union rules. Experts acting for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which Germany is a member, have voiced concern that the law fails to strike an adequate balance when it comes to freedom of expression. David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur for free expression, has pointed out that the „ obligation placed upon private companies to regulate and take down content raises concern with respect to freedom of expression… A prohibition on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous criteria, such as ‘insult‘ or ‘defamation‘ is incompatible with article 19 of the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights“. Moreover, the UN special rapporteur noted that he was “also concerned at the provisions that mandate the storage and documentation of data concerning violative content and user information related to such content, especially since the judiciary can order that data be revealed. This could undermine the right [of] individuals enjoy to anonymous expression ..“.

When a government is desperate to win an easy election and vindictively crush popular dissent, such fine matters of international human rights law are scarely of any relevance. Merkel and her ministers have not even taken window-dressing steps to ensure the law would eventually withstand legal challenges once it comes into force– or for that matter that compliance would be affordable for social media companies. Even the government‘s official justification for the law – to prevent ‘fake news‘ or ‘hate speech‘ from impacting election campaigns, as purportedly occured in the US, is a dishonest non-sequitor; Although the government has had a rock solid parliamentary majority for years, it only passed this law at a point in time so close to the election that technically, the Network Enforcement Act is extremely unlikely to come into force until a few weeks after the election.

What the law says, and what happens when or if it ever comes into force technically is actually quite arcanely insignificant. The law already achieves its objectives by merely existing as a future prospect; The potential of the government even contemplating enacting the costly, repressive, vastly overbroad act is entirely sufficent for bringing in the sweeping and lawless regime of state-mandated, privately enforced mass digital censorship that the government appears to crave so strongly.

In an effort to avoid endless legal battles, vast administrative efforts and hundreds of millions of euros in administrative costs, social media firms will likely be cowed into deleting controversial, critical content preemptively; Right now, prior to the election or the law coming into force. After all, any profit-oriented private business would want to do everything it could to try to avoid the vastly expensive law entirely. By acting now to show the government that they can do the censorship job themselves, making clear that they are capable of acting informally and directly, that there is no actual need for this meddlesome legal regulation. After all, when the coalition government brought in the law, it explicitly stated that one reason for the purported neccessity of the law was that “too small amounts of illegal content are being deleted“ by social media providers, and that user complaints against illegal content were not being processed by social media providers “immediately and sufficiently“.

Thus, the Network Enforcement Act unleashes an immediate, informal, and ultimately lawless tsunami of content deletion; Content deletion that will be conducted kleptocratically by private businesses out of their sheer need for economic survival, far away from the prying eyes of the public, without even a facade of due process or any means of legal recourse. And as an added bonus for the government, netizens who rely on anonymity right now to freely express their thoughts are also likely to be pressured into silence. However vague, the possibility that someday in the future their user account details could be given to prosecutors in some ominous, ill-considered 48 hour express procedure will now weigh heavy on their fingers as they type.

The result will be a stolen election defined by the voices of a politically well-connected media elite, with debate taking place firmly within the government-dictated boundaries of acceptable expression.

Heated, at times hyberbolic, and yes, occasionally emotionally hurtful grassroots exchanges in the marketplace of ideas are what defines a functioning, open democracy. In Merkel‘s new Germany, free, open debate will only be discernible by its silent absence.

Naturally, Merkel‘s government desperately wants to hide this sore reality from a global public.

Very few contempory authoritarian leaders enjoy the enacting their repressive laws in the light of day. When a global swimming championship came to the Hungarian capital Budapest, wannabe-strongman Victor Orban rushed to take down neo-Soviet style propaganda posters that had previously polluted almost every street with their ugly presence. Evidently, he did not want foreign sports fans to think too much about how his regime uses tax-payer funds to promote its own party political propaganda, all while enacting cheap, nefarious pseudo-laws designed to prevent opposition movements from displaying privately funded anti-corruption messages in public. Turkey‘s dictator Erdogan also loves to distract from his systematic destruction of free speech, Kurdish human rights and religious liberty by ranting about fantastical conspiracies involving Gulenists and supposed Kurdish PKK sympathisers (who are secretly actually linked to “atheist Armenians“, according to one of Erdogan‘s right-hand men). It could just as well be Elvis Presley plotting to silence the prayer call of Ankara minarets with loud country music broadcast from his hideout on Mars via a supersonic hyperloop; Any lie will do as long as it takes the heat away from the crimes Erdogan himself is actually committing.

Germany‘s power-obsessed leadership doesn‘t just want to maintain a bog standard clean reputation. It is actively trying to establish itself on that very special moral throne Trump recently vacated because of his venality and imprudence; That of the leader of the free world. And that requires some very out of the box political reputation management.

So, just hours before the German parliament passed the Network Enforcement Act on the 30th of June, its legislators truimphantly passed a bill introducing equal marriage rights for gay people. Merkel had decided to no longer require lawmakers belonging to her centrist-conservative CDU party to vote against the measures, allowing lawmakers to freely choose how to vote as a matter of personal conscience.

Conveniently, this unexpected decision by Merkel dominated the global and domestic news cycle for days. It made the chancellor a darling of global community. Critical coverage of the Network Enforcement Act was relegated to a minor item in the packed news agenda.

But Merkel‘s decision to hold the marriage equality vote at such a time was not just a cynical attempt to abuse gay people‘s rights as cheap political cover to distract from the introduction of repressive censorship laws. It also represents more widely the hypocritical, stage-managed 'democracy' the government presides over.

Angela Merkel had over 10 years in government to find the time and space to realise that gay equal rights were an issue of conscience, not suited to partisan voting instructions.

Choosing to hold a free vote just before the election doesn‘t appear to represent a genuine change of mind on the issue.

Far-rather, it seems like a deeply utilitarian device to allow Merkel to avoid a humiliating forced concession to her political rivals a few months later; All of Merkel‘s three potential coalition partner parties had included red lines in their manifestos, pledging that they would never enter a coalition with the Merkel‘s centre-right CDU party, if she continued to refuse to introduce gay marriage. Germany‘s proportional electoral system essentially makes coalitions unavoidable. So, come what may, long-overdue marriage equality would have been on the books by the end of the year; But by introducing it this way Merkel could dishonestly soak up some of the international credit, and maybe collect some votes from gullible centre-leftists domestically as well.

And what about the government‘s lawmakers, who ceremoniously gathered together in parliament, voting in favour of gay marriage on account of their ‘conscience‘: Where was this conscience of theirs in the years before? Does it only compassion towards gay peoples‘ civil rights when it is electorally opportune to do so? Did they not think that the equal rights for gay citizens are sufficiently important to merit defying mere partisan voting instructions over?

As Germany has economically boomed under Merkel‘s leadership, social compassion and honesty in the public sphere has reached a record low. Corrupt property developers, ruthless drug dealers, and organised crime are being allowed to take over economically deprived parts of Berlin, Frankfurt, Bremen and Colonoge with impunity, while police simply watch. As Berlin‘s political-corporate elite shops in an ever-growing number of luxury all-organic supermarkets, they cheer on the financial rape of Greece and other Southern European countries by the German-led EU‘s austerity programs; Brutal regimes of cuts and privatisations have left some ordinary, hard-working people in those countries unable to afford even basic essentials such as food and medical care. The supposedly anti-racist, pro-equality mainstream media in Germany outdoes itself day-on-day in finding new, politically-useful ways to implicitly suggest to their readers that ‘lazy‘, ‘heat-dazed‘ Greeks deserve all the degrading austerity they get.

While German authorities dishonestly smear outspoken political rivals as a racist or extremist without due process to shut them up, the government‘s very own Federal Police Agency racially profilies perfectly law-abiding Turkish, Kurdish, Arab and African German citizens with glee; Flagrantly violating the Basic Law‘s protection of equal individual liberty in a desperate but sleek attempt to win over the votes of the very people the government publicly condemns when they speak out. The government that digs up every moral trope in the box to condemn racism when it happens to come from its political opponents on the (far) right is the same one that to this day has never brought to justice the murderers of Laya-Alama Conde, a black man brutally tortured to death by German Police in 2004 in the city of Bremen; A sadistic crime for which cops took 9 years to even apologise for. Evidently, the only kind of xenophobia the current government has ever cared about combatting is the variety that reduces its share of the vote.

Merkel‘s government is taking Germany, and with it the European Union, a step towards the path of Putin, Lugaskenko and Victor Orban. Building an illiberal democracy in Germany risks setting back freedom globally, and emboldens dictators.

Unsurpringly, Vladimir Putin‘s authoritarian United Russia party has already moved to replicate the Network Enforcement Act. In July, it presented an extremely similar draft social media bill in the Russian parliament, the Duma, that even goes as far as explicitly referring to the German law as its inspiration. Proving that imitation is the sincerest flattery, Russian legislators even copied the exact, expedited content deletion timeframe of 24 hours directly from the German government‘s law.

Copyright 2017 by the named Popehat author.
[syndicated profile] boston_restaurant_feed
A rapidly-growing chain of farm-to-table dining spots is expanding even further into the Boston area, with four more locations being announced.

According to a job post within the bostonchefs.com site, Sweetgreen is planning to open new shops in Post Office Square and the Seaport District in Boston along with Brookline's Coolidge Corner and Wellesley, while also announcing previously-mentioned locations on the way to State Street in Boston's Financial District and Legacy Place in Dedham. No opening dates for these outlets have been given as of yet, with the post simply saying that they will debut over the coming months.

Sweetgreen, which is based in Washington, DC, is known in part for its salads and grain bowls; the Boston area currently has a number of Sweetgreen shops currently open, including in Boston's Downtown Crossing, the Financial District, the Ink Block in the South End, Fort Point, the Back Bay (2), the Fenway, Cambridge's Harvard Square, Chestnut Hill Square on the Newton/Brookline border, and MarketStreet Lynnfield. The website for the chain can be found at http://www.sweetgreen.com/

Follow us on Twitter at @hiddenboston


[A related post from our sister site (Boston's Hidden Restaurants): List of Restaurant Closings and Openings in the Boston Area]





theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

In case you forgot, I’ll be at Borderlands Books (my favorite place in SF) at 3:00 pm this Saturday to read to you from my new book The Uploaded, sign whatever you put in front of me, and to, as usual, go out for hamburgers afterwards.

(And if you’re extra-special-good, I may do a super-secret advance MEGA-preview reading of The Book That Does Not Yet Have A Name. Not that, you know, you shouldn’t be rushing out to your stores to buy The Uploaded right now.)

I will, of course, bring donuts after my massive DONUT FAIL in Massachusetts, which I still wake up in cold sweats about. I will bring you donuts or die.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

[syndicated profile] google_blog_feed

“In the olden days, everybody sang.”


Those are the words of Leonard Bernstein, composer behind the iconic musical “West Side Story,” where everyone danced and snapped through the streets, too. Whether you’re a Jet all the way or you side with the Sharks, Tony and Maria’s love story is as poignant today as it was 60 years ago, when the Broadway musical first debuted.


In partnership with Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Museum of the City of New York and the National Museum of American Jewish History, Google Arts & Culture is launching a new collection honoring “West Side Story.” Bringing together artifacts and mementos from the making of the musical and movie, behind-the-scenes photographs, and a peek into the modern-day representation of the musical, this collection explores the history, artistic value and social relevance of “West Side Story.” Check it out at g.co/westsidestory and on the Google Arts & Culture app (available on Android and iOS).

Google Arts & Culture is launching a new collection about the iconic musical “West Side Story.”

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