From the world pool: March 4, 2018

Lots and lots of links…

Socio-political commentary

Canadian politics

Non-state torture is still not recognized as a specific crime in Canada.

Global Issues

Move by UK supermarkets threatens to bring Fairtrade crashing down

In place of the strict rules devised by farmers’ groups working with independent development experts to guarantee consumers that small-scale farmers are being rewarded with decent pay and bonuses, the £23bn-a-year retailer said it planned to set up its own in-house certification scheme, set new ethical standards and introduce a different way to pay the groups.

…The farmers at the meeting with Sainsbury’s, mostly from Malawi, Rwanda and Kenya, were nonplussed. “Why change a system that has worked well for 25 years for both poor farmers and large supermarkets?” asked one. Had not the supermarket reaped tens of millions of pounds’ profit and huge moral kudos by pioneering Fairtrade and inviting customers to pay a bit more for their produce?

… Because Sainsbury’s is so important for Fairtrade, the company’s move could be the beginning of the end of the scheme, and lead to lower social and labour standards, more hardship in developing countries and deep confusion among consumers, say some development and ethical trading groups.

The shadow over Egypt 


Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook—and the World 

And Facebook is STILL getting in hot water.

‘Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth An ex-YouTube insider reveals how its recommendation algorithm promotes divisive clips and conspiracy videos. Did they harm Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency?

In the era of fake news, where have all the fact-checkers gone? 

It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech

The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out. They look like epidemics of disinformation, meant to undercut the credibility of valid information sources. They look like bot-fueled campaigns of trolling and distraction, or piecemeal leaks of hacked materials, meant to swamp the attention of traditional media.

These tactics usually don’t break any laws or set off any First Amendment alarm bells. But they all serve the same purpose that the old forms of censorship did: They are the best available tools to stop ideas from spreading and gaining purchase. They can also make the big platforms a terrible place to interact with other people.

How Trump Conquered Facebook—Without Russian Ads

Last Friday, Rob Goldman, a vice president inside Facebook’s Ads team, rather ill-advisedly published a series of tweets that seemed to confirm the Trump administration’s allegations regarding the recent indictments of 13 Russian nationals by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. To wit, the tweets said that the online advertising campaign led by the shadowy Internet Research Agency was meant to divide the American people, not influence the 2016 election.

…During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices.


‘Living laboratories’: the Dutch cities amassing data on oblivious residents

Feminist issues

The Bear’s Lair: The untold story of systemic gender discrimination inside UC Berkeley’s IT Department

Five different women had worked at EEI since the group was formed. Every single one of them has described it as a toxic environment. Several call it the worst experience of their entire professional careers in tech.

After an investigation was launched:

…She won on a big one: The investigators agreed that Khan and Gross created a hostile work environment, based on gender. This violates the University’s rules and the discrimination protections of the U.S. Department of Education and of the Civil Rights Act.

Yet even on that count, the fact that five women all testified to the same treatment wouldn’t have been enough on its own. When assessing their credibility,the investigator expressed concern that their stories sounded too alike, an indication to her that perhaps they coordinated their stories.  In the eyes of the investigator, the most credible testimony had come from a male co-worker named Alex Kim. 

… After she was laid off, she took a contract job within another department in the University, and after working hard to prove herself again, got another permanent role elsewhere within the University. 

She is still working to pay off her $35,000 legal debt. Meanwhile, the men that the process found responsible for creating a hostile work environment have seen their careers soar. A confidante and advisor of Kaskiris’s called it just after the investigation wrapped. “They’re not going to do anything. They’re going to make them do training and that’s it. No one’s going to get fired.”

No one is shocked. No one is outraged. No one cares.

And people wonder why more women don’t come forward.

The Great Stink

The problem is not simply that so many men are unable to cope with fear and distress — it’s also that society at large is unable to cope with male fear and distress, whereas women’s pain is normalized, made invisible, and accepted up to a certain degree as our lot in nature and creation.

… But if we are to talk about men’s feelings, we have to really talk about them, and that might hurt. It involves poking at the soft and painful places beneath the carapace of masculine posturing. It involves talking about the full spectrum of emotion, including vulnerability, disappointment, loneliness, embarrassment, and fear — all of those unmanly feelings men and boys are bullied out of acknowledging. You want to talk about men and their emotions? So do I, and I hope you’re up to it.

Racism and Civil Rights

The Civil Rights movement, distorted: Weaponizing history against Black Lives Matter

How the far right has perfected the art of deniable racism

And on a related note:

I’ve Been Punching Down So Long it Look Like Up to Me

Over the past few years, we’ve noticed how a very particular sleight of hand disguises punching down as punching up. It has become a potent political tool —  one whose consequences we think are worth paying attention to. It often focuses on the supposed scourge of political correctness, which allows the powerful to present themselves as victims of the relatively powerless. What they call blows of self-defense, made against an overwhelming P.C. mob, are in fact punches that land squarely downward.

Indigenous Issues

Rescues and Reconciliation

Prisons, Policing, Justice

Palantir has secretly been using New Orleans to test its predictive policing technology

Predictive policing technology has proven highly controversial wherever it is implemented, but in New Orleans, the program escaped public notice, partly because Palantir established it as a philanthropic relationship with the city through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s signature NOLA For Life program. Thanks to its philanthropic status, as well as New Orleans’ “strong mayor” model of government, the agreement never passed through a public procurement process.

In fact, key city council members and attorneys contacted by The Verge had no idea that the city had any sort of relationship with Palantir, nor were they aware that Palantir used its program in New Orleans to market its services to another law enforcement agency for a multimillion-dollar contract.

Empty Suits: Defamation law and the price of dissent

Gun Control

Four Truths About the Florida School Shooting 

How rightwing media is already attacking Florida teens speaking out

Crisis actors, deep state, false flag: the rise of conspiracy theory code words

The N.R.A. Lobbyist Behind Florida’s Pro-Gun Policies 

Hammer is not an elected official, but she can create policy, see it through to passage, and use government resources to achieve her aims. These days, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature almost never allows any bill that appears to hinder gun owners to come up for a vote. According to Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican strategist and lobbyist, Hammer is “in a class by herself. When you approach a certain level, where the legislator is basically a fig leaf, well, that’s not the rule.”

Young people can’t change US gun law alone – but they could tip the balance

No, Mr Trump, video games do not cause mass shootings

As senator, i have no choice but to accept donations from this churning vortex of death that ate your children. 

More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows 


My Ready Meal Is None Of Your Fucking Business. 

The premise of the tweet from the Conservative Association was that parents who do not cook beautiful, bountiful meals from scratch are lazy, uneducated, unskilled and dysfunctional. Allow me to piss all over that particularly poisonous bonfire once and for all.


Whose University Is It Anyway?

Administrators control the modern university. The faculty have “fallen,” to use Benjamin Ginsberg’s term. It’s an “all-administrative” institution now. Spending on administrators and administration exceeds spending on faculty, administrators out-number faculty by a long shot, and administrative salaries and benefit packages, particularly those of presidents and other senior managers, have skyrocketed over the last 10 years. Even more telling perhaps, students themselves increasingly resemble administrators more than professors in their ambitions and needs. Safety, comfort, security, quality services, first-class accommodations, guaranteed high grades, institutional brand, better job placements, the market value of the credential — these are the things one hears students demanding these days, not truth, justice, and intelligence. The traditional language of “professors” and “students” still exists, though “service provider” and “consumer” are making serious bids to replace them. The principles of collegial governance and joint decision-making are still on the books, but they are no longer what the institution is about or how it works.

The revolution is over and the administrators have won.

The Real Threat To Campuses Isn’t ‘PC Culture.’ It’s Racism.

Debating y/our humanity, or Are Libraries Neutral?


African elephants are migrating to safety—and telling each other how to get there

How climate scepticism turned into something more dangerous

Doubts about the science are being replaced by doubts about the motives of scientists and their political supporters. Once this kind of cynicism takes hold, is there any hope for the truth?

The Defenders

[__] environmental defenders have been killed so far in 2018 while protecting their community’s land or natural resources. Over the past year, in collaboration with Global Witness, the Guardian has attempt to record the deaths of all these people, whether they be wildlife rangers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or indigenous land rights activists in Brazil. At this current rate, chances are that four environmental defenders will be killed this week somewhere on the planet.

Why Canada needs to change how to forecast and prepare for floods

The secret on the ocean floor

Science and Technology

One hell of an impression

Crack and cheese: do pleasurable things really affect your brain like drugs? 

Superdense wood is lightweight, but strong as steel


Tiny Canada town defeats oil firm in court fight over drinking water

Art + Design + Writing + Music

High jinks and hard knocks: New York in the 70s, 80s and 90s  The thing I thought was most interesting about this was the photo of cops at an anti-nuclear rally in 1982. …It’s not the protestors that have changed.

Kelli Anderson

Andrea Kowch

9 Necessary Works of Non-Fiction by Black Women 

Barbara Licha

Mummenschanz on the Muppet Show

Neanderthals – not modern humans – were first artists on Earth, experts claim

Um. Woodpile art is apparently a thing. Who knew? (Google the term.)

Enter an Archive of 6,000 Historical Children’s Books, All Digitized and Free to Read Online

The Cause of Labour is the Hope of the World – Jóhann Jóhannsson   (From the film The Miners’ Hymns)

James Brunt: Artist Spends Hours Arranging Natural Objects Into Stunning Mandalas, Leaves Them For You To Find 


The Ableist, Racist, Classist Underpinnings Of ‘Laziness’

It’s easier to think of someone as “lazy” than to face the fact that school costs too much, that better jobs are inaccessible, that childcare is unaffordable, that people are forced to work so hard for so little that there’s no way they could have enough energy to attempt schooling or finding better work, and that what we give to people who can’t work is insufficient to the point of being shameful. I could say that calling people lazy is, in itself, lazy, but it’s not just an intellectual shortcut. It’s a defense mechanism.


From the Page: Collections  From the Page is a crowd-sourced project transcribing handwritten documents.

Curated Black History Month collection

Quote of the week

I have held the hands of living men as they cried about how their lives are now over. I have listened to men tell me, repeatedly, how they have felt suicidal. I have listened to them discuss methods of killing themselves. I have stayed up late to check that friends were still alive. And I’d do it again, and I’m not the only one — far from it. Everywhere I look, the work of helping heal the trauma of transition to a better and less brutal way of living and loving is being done by women, and it is exhausting work, and it is not being recognized. In fact, all I hear is endless accusations that we are being mean girls and going too far, that if we’re not careful we’ll push men over the edge, they’ll lash out, they’ll break down. Modern masculinity is apparently too fragile for this. I have no idea why more men aren’t offended by the assumption that they are too weak to cope with change, but I’m offended on their behalf. Don’t mention it, it’s my job.

—Laurie Penny, The Great Stink


Just cool

Kaki King. Oh my.

Keepers of the Seed: A partnership allows the first Cornhuskers to save the ancient Eagle Corn seed. Just for fun

False Knees

You aren’t a disappointment. I think I need to keep this prominently on my desktop.

And… obligatory kitten 


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