Daily Archives: March 13th, 2017

Sir Tim Berners-Lee: ‘Fake News’ One of Three Challenges Stopping Web From Serving Humanity

Freddy Mayhew reports for Press Gazette:

Inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has pointed to the spread of “fake news” as one of three challenges stopping his creation from being “a tool which serves all of humanity”.

The exchange of personal data for free content and a lack of transparency around political advertising were also highlighted as areas of concern for the computer scientist.

In an open letter on the 28th anniversary of his original proposal for the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee set out a five-year plan to tackle these three “complex problems”.

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The Choose-Your-Own-News Adventure

[…] As George Stephanopoulos told me when we spoke by phone over the weekend, the trend may have been heading this way for a while — you don’t need an algorithmic feed to turn on Fox News or to catch Rush Limbaugh. But in the era of the curated digital news stream, the choose-your-news phenomenon has “ended up in a whole new place,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said.

It’s easy to overdo it, he noted, given that no specially tailored plotline can fully tune out the contradicting details of another one. “Filters do have to contend with each other in some way, too,” he said.

Really, arguments between adherents of the different adventure plots are the stuff of cable news programming, with each narrative vying for supremacy in debates that too often become arguments over established facts that should be indisputable.

Because, after all, one of the plots we’re talking about here is of the sort that democracy depends on — that would be Adventure B, the one based on established facts that exist in the real world — and the others are of the sort that threatens to undermine any shared sense of truth while driving us into our corners.

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Trump Never Needed a Trump TV — He’s Got the Fox Business Network

Andrew Kirell writes for The Daily Beast:

It turns out Donald Trump never would have needed to launch his own cable-news outlet if he’d lost the election. He already has one: It’s called the Fox Business Network.

Fox News’s sister channel, founded in 2007 as a direct competitor to CNBC, struggled for nearly a decade to gain any steam with viewers. It was only a few years ago that much of FBN was experiencing abysmal ratings, often in the single-digit thousands for its key demographic. The schedule routinely shuffled, programs were slashed wholesale, and the network constantly seemed to be grappling with an identity crisis.

That was until Trump ran for president.

Over the past two years, FBN—which employed this writer from 2009 to 2012—has experienced explosive ratings growth tracking with the ascent of the president to whom it has devoted hours and hours of unabashedly positive coverage. In 2015, it was the fastest-growing network on all of cable, raking in double- and triple-digit growth in almost all relevant ratings factors. And last year, it continued that impressive, record-shattering surge, this time claiming to have beaten CNBC in business-day ratings for an entire quarter—a trend that has continued into 2017.

Of course, a former reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-candidate throwing punches on a daily basis for 17 months was an obvious boon to all of television news, as executives of all stripes have freely admitted. But Trump’s rise was especially integral in shaping Fox Business Network’s identity.

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The Dance of Death

Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig:

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminant and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”

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Yemen Is a Complicated and Unwinnable War

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

yemen.jpg[…] If ever there was a complicated and unwinnable war to keep out of, it is this one.

Despite Saudi allegations, there is little evidence that the Houthis get more than rhetorical support from Iran and this is far less than Saudi Arabia gets from the US and Britain. There is no sign that the Saudi-led air bombardment, which has been going on for two years, will decisively break the military stalemate. All that Saudi intervention has achieved so far is to bring Yemen close to all out famine. “Seven million Yemenis are ever closer to starvation,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in an appeal for more aid this week.

But at the very moment that the UN is warning about the calamity facing Yemen, the US State Department has given permission for a resumption of the supply of precision guided weapons to Saudi Arabia. These sales were suspended last October by President Obama after Saudi aircraft bombed a funeral in the capital Sana’a, killing more than 100 mourners. Ever since Saudi Arabia started its bombing campaign in March 2015, the US has been refuelling its aircraft and has advisors in the Saudi operational headquarters. For the weapons sales to go ahead all that is needed is White House permission.

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Women and Children in Yemeni Village Recall Horror of Trump’s ‘Highly Successful’ SEAL Raid

Iona Craig reports for The Intercept:

Map-04-07-1488835482[…] The Intercept’s reporting from al Ghayil in the aftermath of the raid and the eyewitness accounts provided by residents, as well as information from current and former military officials, challenge many of the Trump administration’s key claims about the “highly successful” operation, from the description of an assault on a fortified compound — there are no compounds or walled-off houses in the village — to the “large amounts of vital intelligence” the president said were collected.

According to a current U.S. special operations adviser and a former senior special operations officer, it was not intelligence the Pentagon was after but a key member of al Qaeda. The raid was launched in an effort to capture or kill Qassim al Rimi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the special operations adviser, who asked to remain anonymous because details behind the raid are classified.

Villagers interviewed by The Intercept rejected claims that al Rimi was present in al Ghayil, although one resident described seeing an unfamiliar black SUV arriving in the village hours before the raid. Six days after the operation, AQAP media channels released an audio statement from al Rimi, who mocked President Trump and the raid. The White House and the military have denied that the AQAP leader was the target of the mission, insisting the SEALs were sent in to capture electronic devices and material to be used for intelligence gathering. A spokesperson for CENTCOM told The Intercept the military has not yet determined whether al Rimi was in al Ghayil when the SEALs arrived.

Although some details about the mission remain unclear, the account that has emerged suggests the Trump White House is breaking with Obama administration policies that were intended to limit civilian casualties. The change — if permanent — would increase the likelihood of civilian deaths in so-called capture or kill missions like the January 29 raid.

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