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Google Pays Academics for Publishing Favorable Articles About Google

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Over the last ten years, Google (er, um, Alphabet) has paid thousands of dollars to people in the academic community working on research that directly involves the company’s business, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Tuesday. Dollar amounts ranged from $5,000 to $400,000, and Google’s financial contributions to the research were often not disclosed in the finished products, the Journal also reported. A former Google employee said the company had assembled a list of research papers, complete with “working titles, abstracts and budgets,” Google wanted to see produced and then used that list to find academics willing to work with them on those projects. Around 100 such papers have been funded by Google since 2009.

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gglockner
8 days ago
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"Don't be evil."
Bellevue, WA
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Using Today’s Web Without JavaScript

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Sonniesedge turned off JavaScript completely in her browser and tested how a bunch of major websites looked. Many of them were simply blank. But The New York Times worked:

The NY Times site loads in 561 ms and 957 KB without JavaScript. Holy crap, that’s what it should be like normally. For reference it took 12,000 ms (12 seconds) and 4000 KB (4 MB) to load with JavaScript. Oh, and as a bonus, you get a screenful of adverts.

A lot of images are lazy loaded, and so don’t work, getting replaced with funky loading icons. But hey ho, I can still read the stories.

Again I say: the web would be better off if browsers had never added support for scripting. Every site on the web would load in under a second.

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gglockner
23 days ago
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No, all that would happen is that ads would change from JavaScript to streaming videos. Remember who pays for most of the content.
Bellevue, WA
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6 Key Allegations From The D.C. & Maryland Lawsuit Against President Trump

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This morning, the attorneys general for both the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a federal lawsuit against President Donald Trump, accusing him of violating the so-called “emoluments clauses” of the U.S. Constitution by continuing to own his various business hotel, restaurant, golf, and real estate ventures. But what are the exact allegations being brought in this case?

Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution is the foreign emoluments clause. It states:
“No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

In other words, the President can’t accept money or gifts from foreign countries without Congressional approval.

The domestic emoluments clause is found in Article II, Section 1, where it explains that the President is paid for their time in office, but that this compensation “shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

Basically, the President gets paid what they are supposed to get paid, and the government doesn’t sweeten the arrangement with more money or gifts.

In the complaint filed today in a federal court in Greenbelt, MD, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland AG Brian Frosh lay out their argument for why they believe the President has violated both of these clauses by refusing to relinquish his ownership of his business interests or establish a blind trust.

The lawsuit focuses on a number of Trump-owned or operated properties, primarily in D.C. and New York City, where the AGs contend he is receiving money from foreign officials and governments.

Here’s a breakdown of the various ways in which the lawsuit claims the President is violating the emoluments clauses.

1. Foreign Money At Trump International Hotel

This building, which opened shortly before the 2016 election, is effectively the centerpiece of the lawsuit. With regard to allegations of foreign emoluments, the complaint says that the property — only blocks from the White House — has been marketed itself specifically to the many foreign diplomats in D.C.

“On one occasion, barely a week after the election, it held an event where it pitched the hotel to about 100 foreign diplomats,” notes the complaint, which also points out that Trump International has a director of diplomatic sales “to facilitate business with foreign states and their diplomats and agents.”

The complaint cites multiple examples of foreign governments paying for events at Trump’s D.C. location. There was the Feb. 22 party held by the Embassy of Kuwait. The lawsuit claims that this event had previously been scheduled to take place at the Four Seasons hotel, but that it was later moved to Trump’s hotel after the election.

The AGs also point to the approximately $270,000 in lodging, parking, and catering paid for by the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia between Oct. 2016 and March 2017. The Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations, also stayed at the hotel in April, according to the lawsuit.

While President Trump had pledged that all profits — at the D.C. Hotel and others — from foreign governments would be donated to the Treasury, NBC News confirmed in May that the Trump Corporation has not been keeping precise track of such payments and is instead merely estimating these amounts.

“To attempt to individually track and distinctly attribute certain business-related costs as specifically identifiable to a particular customer group is not practical,” reads a Trump Corporation pamphlet, according to NBC.

The lawsuit claims that Trump’s promises to donate profits or put his earnings into a separate account are not material with regard to the foreign emoluments clause, as the President “remains owner of approximately 77.5% of the Trump Old Post Office LLC (the remaining shares are owned by three of his children), and thereby benefits from any amounts deposited into the unrecovered capital contribution account.”

2. Trump International’s Lease

The D.C. property also causes concerns with regard to the domestic emoluments clause, according to the lawsuit, as the Trump company that runs the building does not own the structure. Instead, it has a lease from the federal government. That lease pre-dates Trump’s election campaign, but it does state that no “elected official of the Government of the United States… shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”

Before Trump’s inauguration, the Deputy Commissioner of the General Services Administration told lawmakers that Trump would be in violation of the lease unless he “fully divests himself of all financial interests in the lease.” However, in March 2017 the President’s appointed GSA Director declared that Mr. Trump “is in full compliance” with that contract.

The lawsuit argues that by not enforcing the GSA contract, “the federal government has given the defendant an emolument in violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.”

The Trump-owned company that runs the hotel is also currently seeking a $32 million historic preservation tax credit for the building, housed in the historic Old Post Office. Problem is, claim the AGs, that the agency that approves such credits is the National Park Service, which ultimately falls under the direction of the White House.

“If final approval is granted, it may constitute an emolument,” argues the lawsuit.

3. The Chinese Bank In Trump Tower

In New York City, much of the fuss about Trump Tower has been about the traffic snarls and additional costs to the city because of street closures and security around the building. But for this lawsuit, the focus is more on one of the tower’s commercial tenants: The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), a financial institution whose majority owner is the Chinese government.

ICBC has had offices in the Trump Tower since before the election, but the AGs argue that the President is violating the emoluments clause by continuing to accept money from the bank. Additionally, the bank’s current lease expires in 2019, while Trump will still be in the Oval Office. This is problematic, claims the lawsuit, because that means the Chinese government will be negotiating rent with a sitting President of the United States.

4. Government Promotion Of Mar-A-Lago

President Trump has been criticized for his not-infrequent weekend trips to his home at Mar-A-Lago, the Florida resort he owns. But it’s not the cost or time spent golfing that are central to the AG’s lawsuit. Instead, it’s the recent promotion of Mar-A-Lago on websites run by the State Departments and U.S. embassies.

“This post advertising Mar-a-Lago has since been removed,” notes the complaint, “but not before substantive, world-wide advertising of the defendant’s private property, using government resources, had occurred.”

5. Foreign Dignitaries At Trump World Tower

Across town from Trump Tower is this building next to the United Nations. A number of the tenants in Trump World Tower are foreign governments. Saudi Arabia purchased an entire floor of the building for $4.5 million and pays annual fees to the Trump Corporation of at least $89,000. As the lawsuit notes, the floor bought by the Saudis isn’t residential but user as the Saudi Mission to the United Nations.

Likewise, the Permanent Missions of India, Afghanistan, and Qatar have each paid millions to purchase units in the World Tower, while continuing to pay substantial common fees to Trump. Additionally, the bar at World Tower is frequented by officials of foreign governments, meaning money from countries other than those with units in the building could be going to the President’s company.

6. The Apprentice Overseas

There’s nothing inherently unconstitutional about the President continuing to earn royalties or remaining an executive producer of various international editions of The Apprentice, but the lawsuit alleges that it runs afoul of the foreign emoluments clause when President Trump is earning that money from deals with government-owned TV networks.

The lawsuit does not allege that any foreign or domestic groups have used these alleged emoluments to exert undue influence on the White House; just that they are in violation of some of the most basic core tenets of the Constitution.

“Irrespective of whether such benefits affect the President’s decision-making or shift his foreign or domestic policy, uncertainty about whether the President is acting in the best interests of the American people, or rather for his own ends or personal enrichment, inflicts lasting harm on our democracy,” reads the lawsuit. “The Framers of the Constitution foresaw that possibility, and acted to prevent that harm.”





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gglockner
38 days ago
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Why is this Consumer news?
Bellevue, WA
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Route to Air Travel Discomfort Starts on Wall Street

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Nelson Schwartz:

Five years ago, American Airlines factored in on-time arrivals, lost baggage and consumer complaints to help calculate annual incentive payments for top management. Today, these bonuses are based exclusively on the company’s pretax income and cost savings.

And then:

“The response isn’t to Wall Street. It’s to customer behavior,” said Alex Dichter, a senior partner at McKinsey who works with major airlines. “About 35 percent of customers are choosing on price, and price alone, and another 35 percent choose mostly on price.”

So the argument by analysts is basically that executive bonuses are based on profit because focusing on profit focuses on what customers care about most: price. But I call bullshit. When all things are equal, then price matters. Show people something better, and price is no longer the deciding factor.

In otherwords, make the flying experience not suck balls, and you can charge a little more.

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gglockner
52 days ago
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Which is why I take Alaska for domestic travel, and first or business class when possible.
Bellevue, WA
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Apple Employees to Celebrate Earth Day With Green Shirts Starting April 20

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In honor of Earth Day, which takes place on Saturday, April 22, Apple employees will transition from their standard blue shirts to green Earth Day shirts starting on Thursday, April 20.

Apple also celebrates Earth Day by updating the logos on its retail stores around the world, adding a green leaf accent to the traditional white Apple. Earth Day represents one of the few days a year Apple alters its logo.

Apple employees on Earth Day 2016, via Angela Ahrendts

Apple often uses Earth Day as a way to highlight its environmental efforts and reaffirm its commitment to recycling, renewable energy, and other initiatives. According to a recent interview with Apple's VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson, 96 percent of the energy Apple uses around the world now comes from renewable sources like wind and solar.

Last year, Apple released a host of earth-inspired Apple Music playlists, launched a "Siri and Liam" ad outlining its recycling practices, and launched an "Apps for Earth" promotion, with proceeds donated to the World Wildlife Fund. Similar promotions could take place this year, with announcements coming this week ahead of April 22.


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gglockner
93 days ago
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Apple celebrates earth day by producing more shirts?!
Bellevue, WA
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This Functional iPhone 6s Was Built Entirely From Spare Parts Bought in China

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Former software engineer Scotty Allen wanted to find out if it was possible to build an iPhone entirely from spare parts, so he decided to visit Shenzhen, China to see if he could collect all the requisite pieces.

As it turns out, it is indeed possible to build an iPhone from scratch using a hodgepodge of parts, as Allen demonstrates in the video below.


He built a like-new 16GB iPhone 6s using components that were purchased in the cell phone parts markets of Huaqiangbei, China. The finished iPhone 6s is fully functional and comes complete with a working Touch ID Home button because the logic board and the Home button were purchased together.

Allen didn't save any money building an iPhone from the ground up -- on reddit, he says he spent "well over $1,000," but that ended up including extra parts, components that broke, or tools that were unnecessary. He thinks approximately $300 worth of parts actually went into the iPhone.

Because iPhone 7 parts were still difficult to find when he embarked on the project, Allen chose to build a previous-generation iPhone 6s. While most of the parts weren't too difficult to obtain, he says it was hard to get his hands on a logic board. He also had help from many of the vendors who sold the parts during the assembly process.

Allen outlines his experience building the iPhone in the video above, but additional details on sourcing the components and the assembly process can be found on his blog.
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gglockner
99 days ago
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Some people have too much time on their hands.
Bellevue, WA
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