Sunday, 25 June 2017

Qatar's Neighbors Deliver List of Demands

"I can assure you that our situation today is very comfortable," Qatari Ambassador to the U.S. Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani said this week in response to a list of demands sent by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and other neighbors. "Qatar could continue forever like that with no problems."

The conflict started a couple of weeks ago. Unhappy with Qatar's continued relationships with Islamist groups (Qatar denies it funds terrorism, but admits it hosts Hamas and other groups, saying its important to foster good relations for dialogue to take place), its neighbors cut off ties. Qatar was getting a large percentage of its food from Saudi Arabia, and that suddenly ended. Qatar only has one land border (with Saudi Arabia), although it is across the water from Iran.

Since then, Qatar has obtained food from Turkey and elsewhere, ending the initial panic.

Qatar says they feel no pressure to resolve the crisis quickly. Qatar is a rich nation (highest per-capita income in the world), with wealth based on natural gas reserves. It also holds considerable sway in terms of information, as the state owns Al Jazeera news agency.

There may be a political consequence to the crisis though, Analysts say the political stability of the ruling al-Thani family could be threatened if the de facto blockade becomes prolonged.

This week, Kuwait (who is acting as a mediator for this Arab-state "family affair," as it is being framed) delivered a 13-point list of demands from Qatar's neighbors. The demands are not starting points, according to the neighbors, but are their bottom line.

The nations also said that there is no military component to their actions in the conflict.

Which countries are involved? The main 4 are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Yemen and Maldives also joined the group.

Here are the most important of the demands, from a list obtained by AP News:

- Curb diplomatic ties with Iran, and limit trade and commerce
- Close Al Jazeera
- Stop funding other news outlets, including Arabi21, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye
- Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from 4 countries
- Stop all means of funding for groups or people designated by foreign countries as terrorists, including Muslim Brotherhood
- Pay an unspecified sum in reparations
- Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain

Saturday, 24 June 2017

China Threatens Death Penalty for False Scientific Reports

Fraud in China's scientific community has led to recent reports that a large percentage of the science that comes out of the nation is false (a report this week had it that 40% of biomedical papers are false). The peer review system there is not working.

China's Ministry of Science said the mass retractions "seriously harmed the international reputation of our country’s scientific research and the dignity of Chinese scientists at large."

The government's response this month: A "no tolerance" policy. For anyone caught fabricating scientific research, a stiff jail term. If their report leads to actual harm (for example, if drugs end up getting made that result in someone's death), a death penalty for the scientist is possible.

China already executes way more people each year than the rest of the world combined, as reported by Amnesty International and others.

Google Starts Removing Private Medical Records from Search

Google updated their policy for personal info, adding 'private medical records' to the things they remove from search results.

What else have they excluded so far? National or government issued identification numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and images of signatures.

The concern is that the information, which can be highly damaging if mistreated, can be leaked, hacked, or subject to errors.

UK Parliament Hit by Cyber Attack

A spokeswoman said from the National Cyber Security Centre said that "unauthorised attempts to access accounts of parliamentary networks users" were discovered.

"Parliament has robust measures in place to protect all of our accounts and systems, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect and secure our network. As a precaution we have temporarily restricted remote access to the network."

As part of the fix, networks were limited and MPs could not use their emails.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Indian College Now Has Blackout Hour - Forces Students Out of their Rooms to Socialize

The Indian Institute of Technology, in an attempt to make students more social and less depressed, has instituted a blackout hour.

Once every day the lights in hostel dorms (where students stay) are shut off, and students are expected to go out into the common area.

Brussels Train Station Attack

The attack is considered to have failed.

The explosives didn't work as planned. No one was hurt.

Pa. Supreme Court Rules Police Dashcam Videos Are Public

Exceptions must be decided on case-by-case basis. It was a 5-2 decision.

The Supreme Court's ruling upheld decisions by the Commonwealth Court and the state Office of Open Records that granted a Centre County woman's request for state police dashboard video camera recordings of a car crash in which her friend was involved.

19 Year Old Woman Charged with Rape of Baby Daddy

A woman in Hollywood, Alabama met a fellow at a McDonald's after being introduced by a mutual friend, and a relationship followed in which she would pick the guy up and they would drive out to a secluded area and hook up.

The woman said they had sex around 20 times since December when they started up. They also exchanged racy photos of each other. She became pregnant.

However, she was 19 and he was 14, and when she went to apply for Medicaid for the unborn baby, the health officials responded to her listing the baby daddy's name. She was charged with with rape, sex abuse, enticing a child for immoral purposes, traveling to meet a child for an unlawful sex act, possession of child pornography, and dissemination of child pornography.

College Girl Made Up Rape Allegation, Offered Plea Deal

Last year, an 18-year-old woman charged 2 Sacred Heart University athletes with raping her (she said they pulled her into a bathroom at a party and took turns raping her).

The two students said they had consensual sex. They were suspended from school, however, and one (a football player) chose to withdraw from the university and give up his college scholarship.

An investigation began which took 2 months, and the woman said she lied about the assault. She admitted she had consensual sex with the 2 men in the bathroom. Police said she had probably lied because she didn't want another man she liked to lose interest in her after finding out about the encounter at a party, and that "it would make him angry and sympathetic to her." Rape had been, police said, the first thing that came to her mind when she was confronted with explaining her tryst.

The two men were then cleared of wrongdoing.

The woman was charged with falsely reporting and tampering or fabricating evidence, and has been offered a plea deal. There is talk of a possible sentence of 2 years.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

There Is No 'Hate Speech' Exemption to First Amendment, Supreme Court Rules

"[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express "the thought that we hate.'"

That was the writing of one of the 8 justices that unanimously found "hate speech" laws illegal this week.

The case where this happened had to do with whether a band called "The Slants" could get a patent for the name. It was denied by the Patent Office because they thought it was probably racially disparaging, and they have a disparagement clause where they don't patent that type of thing.

The story of the case, from the syllabus:

"Simon Tam, lead singer of the rock group 'The Slants,' chose this moniker in order to 'reclaim' the term and drain its denigrating force as a derogatory term for Asian persons. Tam sought federal registration of the mark 'THE SLANTS.' The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied the application under a Lanham Act provision prohibiting the registration of trademarks that may 'disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute' any 'persons, living or dead.' Tam contested the denial of registration through the administrative appeals process, to no avail. He then took the case to federal court, where the en banc Federal Circuit ultimately found the disparagement clause facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. "

Tam wanted the Patent Office to accept the band name, and even to change the wording of their clause.

But the Supreme Court (and the circuit court before) found that the clause itself was unconstitutional.

"The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech. Because the “Free Speech
Clause . . . does not regulate government speech,” Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, the government is not required to maintain viewpoint neutrality on its own speech. This Court exercises great caution in extending its government-speech precedents, for if private speech could be passed off as government speech by simply affixing a government seal of approval, government could silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints."


Monday, 19 June 2017

Movement Growing: Fixing Things Instead of Buying New Ones

An example getting some attention right now is MIT graduate student, Peter Mui, who 8 years ago started a sort of club for fixing things.

They're called Fixit Clinics. They started out at MIT but spread over the country (there are 100s now), teaching people who want to learn how to fix things like toasters, tripods, kettles, and just about anything else ... rather than throwing them away and buying new ones.

One of the reasons the clinics are happening is because there aren't really repair shops in North America anymore. No one really fixes things.

Supreme Court Strikes Law Barring Sex Offenders from Social Media

8-0. It was unanimous.

The U.S. Constitution First Amendment protects the freedom of speech. And now, according to the Supreme Court, an earlier law that barred sex offenders from using social media was struck because it impermissibly restricts that right.

North Carolina had made it a felony for sex offenders from using social media whenever the websites allow members to be children.

A man in that state who was a registered sex offender was charged after making a normal Facebook post. He challenged the charge. It went back and forth a little with the judges in the state and appellate courts, but the Supreme Court decided the state hadn't shown the sweeping law was necessary or legitimate.

One of the justices wrote, "These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard. They allow a person with an Internet connection to ‘become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.’"

After False Report of Hate Crime, 3 Women Get Probation

On a city bus last year, three black women started a fight with some white men. According to police who later reviewed video and audio footage and talked to witnesses, the women were the aggressors, none of the white men ever struck the women, the women started attacking the white men, and continued attacking despite efforts of several passengers to stop them. The only racial slur uttered was by one of the black women.

The women called 911 and reported the men for a hate crime. On the recording of the call, a woman can be heard uttering (while waiting to be connected): “I think it’s so funny … I just think it’s so funny how, like … I beat up a boy!”

After the women reported the "hate crime" of race-based assault by a large group of white men, hundreds of people turned out for a rally in support of them, and Hillary Clinton tweeted about the incident, sharing a link to a news story about the protest against the "attack on three black women."

One of the three women made a plea deal for community service. Two others were sentenced to 3 years probation, 200 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine. They were also suspended from university. They were not charged with assault.

Google VS Terrorism

Google's now going to be doing new things to reduce terrorist videos.

They'll be using a new algorithm to automatically find terrorism images, and will have more people working to monitor videos.

It will also effect educational and other videos that are about terrorism or include images that promote subjugation of religions or races. They'll have warnings now, and they won't have commenting available. This means that they will also have less engagement and will be harder to find.

CIA Infecting Wi-Fi Routers for Last 10 Years

Wikileaks has released more CIA spying information as part of their Vault7 series, which earlier included the CIA hack that was used by the EternalBlue group to create the WannaCry pandemic.

According to the recent leak, 25 models of routers, including Linsys and DLinks, can be controlled by the CIA. It is suspected that small modifications would allow the tech to take control of 100 more models, too.

It's called CherryBlossom. It turns the router into a tool the CIA can use to monitor and manipulate all traffic, as well as infect all connected devices with malware (plant their own programs on computers to do what they want with them).

The documents leaked by Wikileaks date to 2007.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Van hits Pedestrians Near Finsbury Park Mosque in London

At least one death reported in addition to people leaving the scene in in ambulances.

Suspicions based on emerging details are that the van was a rental driven by one white man, and the targets of his attack were Muslims near their mosque. These are unconfirmed.

A Google System on a Chip?

This week Google hired Manu Gulati, who designed Apple's custom mobile phone processor (SOC).

Why? People suspect it has to do with Google's new phone, Pixel. The phone, which competes with a couple of others at the top of the commercial cell phone market, has been reviewed positively, and has sold well over a million items, but analysts think Google thinks they need to do more: namely, they need to develop their own SOC, just like Apple's popular phones have, and just like Samsung, Huawei, and LG later did.

Finally, an Energy Efficient Clothes Dryer ... It Uses Sound Waves

The new machine uses high-frequency sound waves to vibrate water molecules out of fabric, which becomes mist inside the machine which is siphoned out (the same way a regular dryer removes the water).

Did you know that if you combine your fridge, dishwasher, and clothes washer, you still have less energy use than just your dryer alone in some houses?

These new sound wave dryers can dry in 20 minutes what would take a normal machine 50, and they use about 70% less energy. At least this is what the current prototype is reported to be doing.

The company behind it is called Oak Ridge, and they're working with GE to eventually put out a commercially available model.

Note for scientists: the machine's drum is lined with piezoelectric ultrasound transducers.

Geography Linked to Circle Drawing

The way a person draws a circle has been tied to where they come from.

If you want to do the experiment before reading, simply draw a circle with your finger, or use a pen and paper if you have them handy.

Americans, Brits, Czech, Australian and Finnish people draw their circles starting from the top and in a counterclockwise motion 80% of the time. In France, German, and the Philippines, 90%. Meanwhile in Japan 80% of circles are drawn the opposite way (from the bottom and counterclockwise). Around 55% for Chinese.

The research was done by Quartz, using data from Google's online "Quick, Draw!" game (which had 120k unique circles for them to study). Quartz doesn't know what the reason behind the standardized circle-drawing is, but they guess it might have to do with the way people in these countries learn to write.

They looked at triangle-drawing, too. Almost 100% of Taiwanese and 90% of Japanese and Korean triangles (which are also drawn with only one stroke) are drawn with counterclockwise. In the U.S., it was only a bit more than half the time.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Girlfriend Charged with Manslaughter for Text Messages

The woman, 17 years old at the time of the events, sent text messages to her then 18-year-old boyfriend telling him to kill himself.

The boy killed himself with carbon monoxide in a truck. At one point, he exited the truck, and she urged him to get back into it, and he did.

The judge decided that for her text messages, and because he believed she had a duty to call for help when she knew the condition of the man and the danger he faced, he found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter, despite being nowhere near the boy at the time of his death.

The reason for the guilt can be summed this way: the girl took actions with the goal of causing the man to die, and he did die. However, the action she took was speech, which is usually treated differently. Usually, speech is protected. Many people are confused and doubtful about the finding of guilt in this case.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Americans Gave $390b to Charity Last Year

Americans are consistently at the top for charitable giving.

Last year the amount breaks down to an average of $1215 per person.

Canada Bans Cellphone Unlocking Fees, Orders All New Devices Be Unlocked

The new rules start December 1.

From then on, all new phones must be unlocked. And for phones people already own, they can ask their provider to unlock it, and unlocking it has to be free, according to the CRTC.

Currently, telecoms stock stores with phones that they make sure are locked (so users can only use their service). To unlock it, they charge around $50.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

New Trains Don't Use Rails

It runs along regular asphalt roads, using rubber tires instead of steel wheels, following painted lines, and it's electric.

Cost is a big factor that limits cities' ability to serve commuters and freight with trains. A company in China called CRRC Zhuzhou Institute made something they're calling "the first railless train."

This little 3-car train is 30 feet long and tops out at 70 kmh. It can travel 20 km on a charge using its battery with 300 passengers.

Although the train follows lines painted on the road, it also has a system in it where the train can sense its surroundings and plan its own route, according to CRRC. 

Although it's autonomous, it has a drivers' seat. The train doesn't have a collision-avoidance system yet.

They're building a route for these trains in Zhuzhou city, China, starting next year.

People Don't Seem to Like Facebook's 'Safety Check'

There was a serious fire in London this week. People in the area received Facebook push alerts saying "The fire in London, United Kingdom" with a button that said "Tell friends that you're safe."

A lot of people seem to not like the notifications, though. The sense is they are "uncomfortable" with them and that the notifications might add to peoples' stress to drive engagement. Also, the notifications rely on Facebook's geolocation, which isn't very accurate, so people 100's of miles away sometimes got the notification.

24 Story in London Burns, Expected That Dozens Dead

The fire started in the middle of the night. It is not known how many people died. Some died jumping out of the burning building. The top floors, engulfed in smoke and flames, had small survival odds.

Public opinion has it that the building was dangerous, and the fire was not a great surprise.

The cause is not yet known. A suspicion is it might have started with a faulty appliance.

Firefighters called the blaze "unprecedented" in terms of scale, speed and spread, and said it was a big challenge to deal with. Some people waiting the whole night before they could be rescued from the building.

Gunman Attacks Congressmen Playing Baseball

Four Republican congressmen were injured including one seriously injured -- Steve Scalise -- and the attack ended with police shooting the man, a 66-year-old Illinoisan who died later in medical care.

There were members of the public around the baseball field, but the attacker did not fire at them. He walked up and asked some people if the congressmen on the field were Republicans or Democrats before he began so shoot his rifle at them.

The FBI is seeking further information about the shooter. He is believed to have been politically active, a supporter of Bernie Sanders, and strongly anti-Trump.

$15 Minimum Wage Could Cost State 382,200 Jobs

This is according to Ben Gitis of the American Action Forum.

The current wage in Illinois is $8.25, but lawmakers are thinking about making it $15 (by 2022). There is also a tax credit for small businesses (under 50 employees) that would give them some of the money back, but that credit is planned to be phased out as the higher wage is phased in, and small businesses would only save a max of around 5% in 2022, and then the tax credit would end in 2023.

The almost 400k figure Gitis got from a study (Meer & West, 2015) that found that a 10% increase in real minimum wage is associated with a 0.3 - 0.5% decrease in net job growth, so, for example, 3 years after such a wage hike, there would be around 0.7% less employment.

Since the Illinois $15 minimum wage represents an 82% increase, employment would be almost 6% lower according to that math. Gitis measured this against projections for the state's employment from IDES, which expects around 370k jobs to be created in Illinois between 2014 and 2022, just a few less than would be negated by the wage increase. In other words, Gitis concluded, the pay raise could cost more jobs overall than the state plans to create over the coming years.

Driverless, Zero Emissions Cargo Ships

A fully electric, zero emissions cargo ship will set sail next year in Europe.

This first one will be sent out by Norway. It's the Yara Birkeland.

Currently, Yara uses diesel trucks to haul what it plans to use these ships for. The transport is taking place between Norwegian ports -- it's not like they're doing international shipping. But confidence in the project seems high. They announced that their Birkeland will be remote controlled in 2019, unmanned in 2020. Yara's shares shot up from 7.7 to 322.8 kroner Monday.

The shipping industry currently accounts for 2.3% of global emissions. They use a lot of dirty diesel fuels (I don't mean that diesel is dirty, but these vessels have historically used dirty fuel).

Average BC Families Will Pay $482 More Just for Carbon Tax Under New NDP Gov

According to the Fraser Institute, B.C. families will pay an average of just under $600 more per year under the new NDP minority government.

The bulk of that number is from a hike in carbon taxes ($5 more per ton).

The Fraser Institute figures the increased taxes on carbon will add a total of $1.4 billion to B.C.’s tax burden.

The NDP will tax higher incomes more. The already highly-taxed $150k and up range will pay more than $1000 additionally, while those making under $50k will pay $144 more.

The Institute also pointed out that there won't be any reduction in other taxes to offset this almost-$600 (ie it won't be a revenue neutral hike). The organization hasn't yet figured whatever the balance will be after any "carbon tax rebate checks" promised by the NDP. The party says that 80% of British Columbians will end up paying less under their government, but haven't given any details about what the rebates will look like.

According to the report, "British Columbians may soon face substantially higher taxes, given the changes proposed by the NDP and the Green Party. And their uncosted spending proposals mean future tax increases beyond those already announced are also likely."

Fraser Institute

5 Officials Charged with Manslaughter Over Flint Water Crisis

For failing to act during Flint, Michigan's water crisis, 5 government officials are being charged with involuntary manslaughter by the Michigan AG.

The officials are from the Department of Health and Human Services,Water Department, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The District Supervisor and Emergency Manager, too.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Biggest Gang in America

MS-13 is now the biggest street gang, reportedly, with 6 - 10,000 members in 46 states, according to the FBI.

The origins of the gang is refugees from conflict zones like El Salvador (the name "Mara Salvatrucha" comes from the peasant fighters in the civil war there). The Latin refugees opposed Black and Mexican gangs in LA initially, and then spread to Latino communities across the U.S. The biggest cluster of members in in Suffolk County, Long Island (over 400 members), according to the NY Post.

MS-13 has made news headlines lately for violent killings.

According to Guardian Angels (a non-profit international volunteer organization of unarmed crime-prevention patrollers) founder Curtis Sliwa, “MS-13 is unlike any street gang that we have dealt with before. They are organized and behave like a paramilitary organization. And the violence is incredibly brutal.”

How to Succeed, According to the National Science Foundation

They did a study of studies (of 61 success studies) and their conclusion was that 3 things come up again and again. The subjects of the studies were students, but the findings can be extended outside of academia:

First, students succeed more if they have a sense that they fit or belong in their college. They tend to be "socially integrated."

Second, they succeed more if they embrace the idea that they will improve as they go along -- something the researchers refer to as a "growth mindset."

Third, if students can see a future desired end, and link that with what they are doing, students succeed more often.


Google Cares Less and Less About College

Google's head of ops was interviewed by the Times this week, and, although the company used to look for GPAs and brand name schools (as well as good answers in Google's famous weird-question interviews), now they look less at top college creds, or even graduation.

What is Google looking for now? A couple of specific things in addition to the regular general things: One is "intellectual humility," where people can take a step back and accept a coworkers superior idea, and learn from it. There is an element of "failing well" in this.

The other is "general cognitive ability." Ie, instead of the credentials earned in a structured university, a person is able to learn new things when they set themselves to it. Google has "structured behavior interviews" that test for this, and the company tests their tests to make sure they're predictive.

Windows Vulnerable to Government Hacks, They Say

"In reviewing the updates for this month, some vulnerabilities were identified that pose elevated risk of cyber attacks by government organizations, sometimes referred to as nation-state actors or other copycat organizations," Adrienne Hall, General Manager of Microsoft's Cyber Defense Operations Center, said in a blog post.

Microsoft distributed updates to protect against these types of risks in addition to this month's "Patch Tuesday," the security updates Microsoft rolls out each month. Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7 and Windows Server releases after 2008 will be updated automatically. Earlier Windows will have to install the updates manually.

It isn't clear whether Microsoft was tipped off to a possible upcoming attack or not. Windows hacks has been in the spotlight since last month when the WannaCry pandemic struck, exposing Windows vulnerabilities.

Student Charged After False Rape Report

A 19-year-old U of North Georgia woman had called 911 and reported that she'd been raped by a man on a popular lake trail.

She did not identify the alleged rapist. She vaguely described a white man in his 20s to 40s with short brown hair and a black t-shirt.

Officers found no corroborating evidence, and then when they reviewed CCTV in the area and the woman's cell phone records, they decided that she had not even been on the trail when the alleged crime was reported to have taken place.


Verizon Buys Yahoo

Verizon now owns Yahoo, ending its 20 years as an independent company.

Yahoo will now be combined with AOL and other Verizon services under a new subsidiary called "Oath" headed by former AOL CEO Tim Armstrong.

Yahoo cost Verizon $4.48b.

Click Farm Raided in Asia, 347,200 SIM Cards Found

A group of Chinese have been arrested in Thailand for operating a "click farm."

They were using hundreds of cellphones and thousands of SIM cards to run up "likes" and views on WeChat (the Chinese version of Facebook plus more).

10 Elephants Poisoned to Death

Near Zimbabwe's largest elephant park (Hwange National Park), another case of elephant poisoning has taken place. 10 elephants died of cyanide poisoning.

The first popular case was from 2013, when around 100 dead elephants were found by park rangers.

Read more: Drones Helping with Elephant Problems

Woman in Divorce Wins More Than Half Assets in Landmark Ruling

Usually in the UK, assets are split in a divorce, but this week after a 4-year marriage, a woman challenged an original even-split ruling and got more than half.

Her argument was that "because this was a short marriage he should not get half of the matrimonial pot."

It wasn't a huge change to the asset split. Instead of 2.7m pounds, the husband got 2m.

The divorce came about after the wife accused the husband of "a clandestine affair" which was later admitted in divorce court.

The panel decided that, because the marriage was a short, dual career marriage in which the couple had kept their finances separate, the unusual division of assets was "justified" where it might not be if the husband had "contributed" to the source of the wife's [income] by doing more in the home life or welfare of the family domains. "This case is, therefore, a 'non-business partnership, non-family asset case' where the bulk, indeed effectively all, of the property has been generated by the wife," they said.

Lawyers are talking about how this ruling may set a precedent for future divorces. The issue of "fairness" of an asset split will be something new to argue.

Black Lives Matter Halts Gay Pride Parade

Minority groups, at least the organized ones, have been attacking each other increasingly. This month, Black Lives Matter float participants, welcomed to the Toronto Gay Pride Parade as guests of honor, halted the whole parade midway through until the Gay Pride group agreed to BLM demands, such as “prioritizing black trans women” in hiring and “a commitment to more black deaf and hearing ASL interpreters.”

The Gay Pride Parade gave into the BLM demands after 30 minutes.

Sears Canada Might Close

The company doesn't have enough cash to cover operations for the year, and hasn't been able to get the full amount of the loan they were looking for.

A couple of months ago, Sears Canada made a statement that they were in doubt the company could go on.

Due in large part in the shift towards online shopping, Sears Canada hasn't made a profit in 3 years. They are considering restructuring or selling the company.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Panama's Ex-Pres Arrested in Florida

According to the U.S. Marshals, the 65-year-old ex-president of Panama (he governed 2009-14) was arrested near his Florida house.

Panama's government has since last year wanted Martinelli extradited to their country for charges of corruption and spying on political opponents.

Martinelli says the allegations are politically motivated, a political vendetta by his opponents.

Panama Switches to 'One-China'

Panama had dealt with Taiwan, the seat of the original Chinese government, ignoring the claim of Beijing's 'One-China' up until this week.

China has done quite a bit of investment in Panama in recent years.

Now Panama has cut off relations with Taiwan in favor of Beijing. Most countries have now done this. Canada did so in 1971 and the U.S. did so in 1979.

Taiwan still has non-diplomatic, unofficial governmental relations with the European Union and at least 47 states, including Canada and the U.S.

U.S. Diplomat Resigns from China Post in Protest

The top American official (the position is called 'charge d'affaires') in China this week quit in protest of Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Trump pulled out of the agreement, saying that the deal wasn't good for the U.S. relative to other participants who get more out of it and pay less. Obama originally entered the deal without bringing it before Congress. It was widely considered that it would not have passed Congress if he had done it that way.

David Rank served 27 years in the Foreign Service before quitting.

Big Government Protest in Moscow

Alexei Navalny has organized one of the largest public demonstrations against the Russian government this week, with thousands showing up.

Although Navalny was given permission to hold a demonstration, he moved the protest to another area where he did not have permission. Clashes with police followed.

Navalny sent out a video message at night telling his supporters to go to the location near Red Square and to "go nowhere else." Navalny was arrested before he could go to the location.

Navalny has only 2% support in Russia, while Putin has widespread support.

First State to Offer Free College for Almost All Adults

Tennessee is the first state in the country to offer community college free for almost all adults.

The state already had free community college for all graduating students, but now it has extended this to pretty much everyone. And the state lets attendees do it part time if they want, since many people work while attending.

Tech Stocks Continue Downward

The drop started last Friday, and continued over the weekend and on Monday. The big tech stocks, like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft, which have been on a long upward trend, have dropped significantly.

The drop is considered possibly overdue given the high out-performance and positioning of the stocks. 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Pay TV Market in North Africa and the Middle East

17% revenue growth is expected between now and 2022, according to a recent report by Research and Markets.

Currently, revenues for these 20 countries is $3.5b. The 2022 number will be $4.1, and of the 20 countries, 5 countries will make up 75% of that revenue.

The 17% gain in revenue will be from 5m new pay TV homes, bringing the number of pay TV homes to almost 20m by 2022, a 4% change from 2016.

The region is mostly serviced by TV operator Digiturk. They have a large margin over second-place beIN, and this is expected to continue.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Breivik Changes Name

The Norwegian 38-year-old political mass-killer has changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen, according to his lawyer, who also said Breivik had told him the reasons for the change but the lawyer didn't want to tell them.

Hansen is a common last name. Around 1% of Norwegians are Hansens.

Fjotolf is a name carried by only around 4 people, so most Norwegians have never heard of the name. The internet is guessing. "Fjott" translates as "dork," and people have said the "olf" might refer to "Adolph" due to the sound.

'Deep State' Enters Popular Vocabulary

It has come up during the Comey hearings, bringing the term to a wide audience.

It's a conspiracy-theory type term that started 60 years ago: It means that besides the regular U.S. government, there is a secret-ish organization of security officials across various governmental domains which work together to enforce their values and goals.

Currently, some Trump supporters are pointing to the Deep State and saying it is behind an attempt to damage the president, and the current Comey investigation is part of this attempt.

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Qatar's Neighbors Deliver List of Demands

"I can assure you that our situation today is very comfortable," Qatari Ambassador to the U.S. Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani said this...