"My Dad used to say soil is overrated. Once nitrogen fertilizer was invented, soil largely quit mattering. He got the best yields on eroded clay hillsides. See, they were well-drained which matters more than all the 'soil structure' talk."
"Here's a little mystery for HN. Have you seen the fictional BBC segment someone produced about an escalating conflict between Russia and NATO?
It made the rounds on HN a couple months ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14
It's the only piece of fiction that has made me feel deathly ill in quite the same way Threads did.
The video is incredible. It's one of the best pieces of realistic fiction I've ever seen.
But how was it made? Who made it? And why? I counted at least 10 professional-quality actors with convincing, in-character costumes. See this timestamp: https://youtu.be/2VZ3LGfSMhA?t=1053
The uploader of the video is "Ben Marking", only 8k subscribers, and no online presence. They left a comment: http://i.imgur.com/MJVh31d.png Other than that, no one's taking credit.
So why make it? It's wonderful art, but is there anything more to it?
Whoever's behind this has also uploaded nine revisions since last year: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA9r2N
"The National Liberation Army of Columbia (FARC), created by the KGB with help from Fidel Castro; the “National Liberation Army of Bolivia, created by the KGB with help from “Che” Guevara; and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), created by the KGB with help from Yasser Arafat are just a few additional “liberation” movements born at the Lubyanka -- the headquarters of the KGB."
“The only good news is that this activity is now commonplace, and the general population is so used to the idea of a Russian hand behind this, that it backfired on them,”
Latvians basically invented the stiff upper lip
"Government bonds, for all governments including the US government, have never been paid back, with ONE exception (in 4500 years of capitalist history). As soon as the governments get into trouble, losses are imposed on creditors immediately, and often repeatedly. Since states survive, on average, less than 2 centuries, the default rate on government bonds (including government bonds of global hegemons), over all of history, is about 2.8%.
Therefore any government-issued bond that pays less than 2.8% interest is a net-negative investment.
Even the corollary, that government debt is safer than large company issued debt is wrong. Large companies only have default rates of 2.5%. The difference is even larger in the US because the US of course defaulted in practice when Nixon killed the Gold standard, and so did most if not all governments worldwide. Companies that had issued bonds at the time, most paid them back just fine. Same with WWII. After world war 2, a lot of large company debt was actually transferred back to the owners, whereas even the German state did not even repay it's postwar debts.
Even in cases where it's incredibly ridiculous and morally wrong, governments don't pay back debts. Take for example the German debt to Greece from WWII. The Germans decided not to pay it back, and Greece had no way to enforce this. They still don't, and now that Germany can impose monetary limits on Greece, they still don't see any need whatsoever to pay back their owed debts. And yes, the German debt to Greece FAR exceeds what Greece would need to get out of their crisis. Even now, the German state is not willing to even forgive Greek debt to the amount they still owe the Greeks."
"If you’ve got people who don’t even have addresses, let alone credit ratings, how do you sell them energy? Well, that’s easy. You design a meter which will dispense electricity when you type in a twenty-digit magic number. The cryptography that makes that work is what I worked on. You can get your twenty-digit magic number if you’re in downtown Johannesburg by going up to a cash machine and getting it printed out on a slip and your account debited. If you’re in rural Kenya, you use mobile money and you get your twenty-digit number on your mobile phone. It really is a flexible and transportable technology, which is an example of the good that you can do with cryptographic mechanisms."
"This is an example of network effects. We now understand that they’re absolutely pervasive in the IT industry. It’s why we have so many monopolies. Markets tip because of technical reasons, because of two-sided markets, and also for social reasons. About ten years ago, I had a couple of new research students coming to me, so I asked them what they wanted to study. They said, “You won’t believe this, Ross, but we want to study Facebook privacy.” And I said, “You what?” And they said, “Well, maybe an old married guy like you might not understand this, but here in Cambridge all the party invitations now come through Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, you go to no parties, you meet no girls, you have no sex, you have no kids, and your genes die out. It’s as simple as that. You have to be on Facebook. But we seem to have no privacy. Can that be fixed?” So they went away and studied it for a few months and came to the conclusion that, no, it couldn’t be fixed, but they had to be on Facebook anyway. That’s the power of network effects. One of the things that we’ve realized over the past fifteen years is that a very large number of the security failures that afflict us occur because of network effects."
"Back in the early 1990s, for example, if you visited the Microsoft campus in Redmond and you pointed out that something people were working on had a flaw or icould be done better, they’d say, “No, we’re going to ship it Tuesday and get it right by version three.” And that’s what everybody said: “Ship it Tuesday. Get it right by version three.” It was the philosophy. IBM and the other established companies were really down on this. They were saying, “These guys at Microsoft are just a bunch of hackers. They don’t know how to write proper software.”
But Bill had understood that in a world where markets tip because of network effects, it’s absolutely all-important to be first. And that’s why Microsoft software is so insecure, and why everything that prevails in the marketplace starts off by being insecure. People race to get that market position, and in the process they made it really easy for people to write software for their platform.They didn’t let boring things like access controls or proper cryptography get in the way."
"Once you have the dominant position, you then put the security on later, but you do it in a way that serves your corporate interests rather than the interests of your customers or your users. You do it in such a way that you lock-in your customer base, your user base. Once we understood that, that was a big “aha” moment for me back in 2000 or 2001. It became immediately obvious that understanding network economics in detail was absolutely central to doing even a halfway good job of security engineering in the modern world."
"Twenty years ago, I could find everything about you that was on the World Wide Web, and you could do the same to me, so there was mutuality. Now, if you’re prepared to pay the money and buy into the advertising networks, you can buy all sorts of stuff about my clickstream, and find out where I’ve been staying, and what I’ve been spending my money on, and so on. If you’re within the tent of the intelligence agencies, as Snowden taught us, then there is very much more still. There’s my location history, browsing history, there’s just about everything."
"Conflict also comes in. If I’m, let’s say, the Chinese government, and I’m involved in a standoff with the American government over some islands in the South China Sea, it’s nice if I’ve got things I can threaten to do short of a nuclear exchange.
If I can threaten to cause millions of cars in America to turn right and accelerate sharply into the nearest building, causing the biggest gridlock you’ve ever seen in every American city simultaneously, maybe only killing a few hundred or a few thousand people but totally bringing traffic to a standstill in all American cities— isn’t that an interesting weapon worth developing if you’re the Chinese Armed Forces R&D lab? There’s no doubt that such weapons can be developed."
"All of a sudden you start having all sorts of implications. If you’ve got a vulnerability that can be exploited remotely, it can be exploited at scale. We’ve seen this being done by criminals. We’ve seen 200,000 CCTV cameras being taken over remotely by the Mirai botnet in order to bring down Twitter for a few hours. And that’s one guy doing it in order to impress his girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever. Can you imagine what you can do if a nation-state puts its back into it?"
"I believe that the corrupt government of Joseph Muscat is a direct outcome of the very same amoral familism that anthropologist Jeremy Boissevain wrote about in his 1962 study of Malta, Saints and Fireworks. Boissevain discovered that the Maltese family-centred worldview holds that any action undertaken to benefit one’s family or oneself is justifiable. And everyone expects everyone else to do whatever benefits their family or themselves, regardless of whether it’s legal or ethical.
If you’ve read Boissevain’s study, you’ll know that amoral familism leads to a complete disregard for the effects of one’s actions on others — neighbours, strangers, future generations — and a complete lack of personal responsibility for one’s actions.
You see it in the way people dump rubbish in the no-man’s-land of public spaces. You see it in illegal building construction, done with total disregard for the laws and regulations that protect the quality of life of others, or the environment. You see it in the pervasive system of patronage and nepotism, and the belief that a network of influential friends or relatives in government or a political party should give you favours, cash, permits, etc in return for your vote.
Everyone does it. But don’t you dare point it out or you will be in the wrong, and someone will burn down your front door, set fire to your car, vandalise your house or kick you out of your job.
Well, this very same culture of amoral familism has produced a government that is pillaging your country like an elderly aunt at a wedding buffet with her purse lined in plastic. Crooked politicians split hairs, play with words, and cloud the waters to distract from their completely obvious wrongdoing. And they’re successful at this because the audience they’re speaking to really can’t see the difference between right and wrong. [..]
“Well, Charlie did X” is the inevitable response to criticism, or to someone who points out wrongdoing. It always sounded crazy to me. But I realized that, though it’s a logical fallacy, in the Maltese setting, whataboutism actually is an admissible argument. That person is saying, “You acted to benefit your own party, and to hell with everyone else, so what’s wrong with what we did?”
Whataboutism conforms to the amoral familism worldview, rather than to moral right or wrong. And politics in Malta will always be about that sort of opportunism, because it reflects the culture. This is why prosecuting Muscat & Company (or “companies”, rather) for their crimes and cleaning up the mess isn’t enough. The same pattern will repeat itself again and again, because the culture allows it.
Amoral familism may have been a practical solution when it developed in those medieval villages of Malta long ago. And it probably helped Maltese families to survive by exploiting the scant resources available to them, including the ‘resource’ represented by groups like the Knights of St John who conquered the islands. Wealth was not created; it came from outside, and you had to grasp whatever you could before someone else took it first.
Amoral familism made life miserable for many, but it worked in a closed island setting composed of isolated villages, each playing by those same grasping rules. But I think amoral familism is a cultural dead end, just as Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon were biological dead ends in our physical evolution as humans.
You can polish your house to a shine and fling the dirt out the front door, into the street and the common areas, along with your litter. But you can’t do that when you’re part of a community of nations, or those other countries — your neighbours — will shun you.
You can’t join a community of nations and sell their passports to shady Eurasians and Middle Eastern people, and then pocket the money and send those people to live in someone else’s country. That really pisses off the other members of the group. You can’t launder money for Azerbaijan because the kickbacks are good, and then expect legitimate business to invest in Malta. [..]
The entire government of a country becomes corrupt to that shocking level — laundering money, selling national resources to shady countries, peddling passports, pocketing kickbacks — because the rest of society allows it. It happens because of all those landlords who only take rent payments in cash so they can avoid paying tax. It happens when you slip some cash to Uncle Charlie’s Garage for a fake VRT certificate rather than just maintaining your car.
It happens when doctors help you out by making up symptoms for an insurance form so you won’t have to pay. Why not? Everyone else is doing it. The government’s just doing it on a larger scale.
It takes change on an individual level to go in a different direction. It starts by making the decision not to cut corners. Not to participate in that low-level day-to-day corruption, even if it seems easier. The opposite of amoral familism is to work for the good of the entire society, rather than just for the good of your family, or your faction."
220.127.116.11/24 Norvik Banka LV
18.104.22.168/24 DNBNORD PLC LV
“This drug takes a little bit of oxygen and makes a lot of energy, compared to when you didn’t have the drug—for that same amount of oxygen, you’d have less energy,” he says. “More energy is all you need to have better performance.”
Increased oxygen and energy help not only your heart and other muscles but also your brain, Jalloh says. Meldonium has also shown promise in alleviating depression, improving learning and memory, and treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The drug was developed in Latvia and is currently made by the drug company Grindeks. It's used primarily in Baltic countries like Latvia, as well as Ukraine, and Poland. (Almost all the clinical evidence on the drug is published in Polish and Russian clinical journals.) But in the 1980s, the AP reports, it was widely used among Russian troops to enhance their stamina while fighting in Afghanistan.
The compound – a very simple structure – appears to work as an inhibitor in the carnitine biosynthesis pathway, and may have several other activities. Landing in that pathway might well be enough all by itself; metabolically, there’s a lot going on at that intersection.
"While not a household name today, Wright Patman was a legend in his time. His congressional career spanned 46 years, from 1929 to 1976. In that near-half-century of service, Patman would wage constant war against monopoly power. As a young man, at the height of the Depression, he challenged Herbert Hoover’s refusal to grant impoverished veterans’ accelerated war pensions. He successfully drove the immensely wealthy Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon from office over the issue. Patman’s legislation to help veterans recoup their bonuses, the Bonus Bill—and the fight with Mellon over it—prompted a massive protest by World War I veterans in Washington, D.C., known as “the Bonus Army,” which helped shape the politics of the Depression.( ... tālāk ... )
Americans feel a lack of control: They are at the mercy of distant forces, their livelihoods dependent on the arbitrary whims of power. Patman once attacked chain stores as un-American, saying, “We, the American people, want no part of monopolistic dictatorship in … American business.” Having yielded to monopolies in business, the nation must now face the un-American threat to democracy Patman warned they would sow."
"At the FSB, Dokuchaev was partnered with Sushchin, and the two recruited Belan, a Latvian-born hacker who had been on a list of the FBI’s most wanted since 2012."
"Copyright terms have been radically extended in this country largely to keep pace with Europe, where the standard has long been that copyrights last for the life of the author plus 50 years. But the European idea, “It’s based on natural law as opposed to positive law,” Lateef Mtima, a copyright scholar at Howard University Law School, said. “Their whole thought process is coming out of France and Hugo and those guys that like, you know, ‘My work is my enfant,’” he said, “and the state has absolutely no right to do anything with it—kind of a Lockean point of view.”
It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It’s like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It’s there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages—to do so, they’ve said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time—and here we’ve done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it’s 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they’re the ones responsible for locking it up."
"The gifted learn to play magnificent Mozart melodies, but rarely compose their own original scores. They focus their energy on consuming existing scientific knowledge, not producing new insights. They conform to codified rules, rather than inventing their own."
"Comey’s apparent shift may have followed a mid-October decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) court to approve a secret surveillance order. The order gave permission for the Department of Justice to investigate two banks suspected of being part of the Kremlin’s undercover influence operation.
According to the BBC, the justice department’s request came after a tipoff from an intelligence agency in one of the Baltic states. This is believed to be Estonia."
"The first thing Galileo discovered was that the moon was not smooth and homogeneous, as everyone believed. Instead, it was covered with craters and mountains whose peaks became awash with light when the “terminator” — the line that separates the illuminated and dark parts of the moon — inched forward through the night. Art historians Samuel Edgerton and Horst Bredekamp have written insightfully about how his skills as a draftsman were key to this discovery. Young artists in training during this period were drilled on treatises designed to, in effect, reshape their perception, so that they unthinkingly interpreted certain configurations of two-dimensional light and dark shapes as the surfaces of three-dimensional figures hit by a light source. Galileo’s draftsman eye thus gave him a crucial advantage over other observers, such as Englishman Thomas Harriot, who, a couple of months earlier, had carried out the first recorded telescopic observation of the moon. To Harriot the moon remained smooth and the terminator a fairly clean line. He only saw mountains and craters after he learned of Galileo’s novel description.
The implications of Galileo’s discovery were mindboggling. Aristotelian physics had been based on a fundamental distinction between Earth and the Heavens. Everything on Earth was subject to processes of corruption and change. The Heavens were incorruptible, made of perfectly smooth material, and moved only along circular paths. A pockmarked moon made no sense.
Galileo’s telescope was about to deliver even more shocking news. In the clear sky of January 1610, he pointed it toward Jupiter, and noticed three small stars peculiarly aligned next to it. He recorded their position on a now-famous piece of paper. The following night, he could scarcely believe his eyes: they had moved. And now there were four. A few nights later, Galileo realized that they were not stars but planets orbiting Jupiter as it moved westward against the backdrop of the fixed stars. For the first time ever, someone had observed a celestial body that orbited around something that was not Earth. This was a formidable blow to both the Ptolemaic system and Aristotelian physics, which did not allow for multiple centers of gravity. Galileo’s discoveries spelled the end of conceptions of Earth, and hence of man, as the center of everything."
"It’s time to embrace Memetic warfare" by Jeff Giesea
Memes appear to function like the IEDs of information warfare. They are natural tools of an insurgency — great for blowing things up, but likely to sabotage the desired effects when handled by the larger actor in an asymmetric conflict.
“It’s time to drive towards a more expansive view of strategic communications on the social-media battlefield,” Giesea wrote in his essay on the power of memes. “It’s time to adopt a more aggressive, proactive and agile mindset and approach. It’s time to embrace memetic warfare.”
“The broad manipulation of public sentiment is really not in [the military’s] wheelhouse,” Robb said. “All the power is in the hands of the people on the outside doing the disruption.”
Meme wars seem to favor insurgencies because, by their nature, they weaken monopolies on narrative and empower challenges to centralized authority. A government could use memes to increase disorder within a system, but if the goal is to increase stability, it’s the wrong tool for the job.
“For many of us in the social media world, it seems obvious that more aggressive communication tactics and broader warfare through trolling and memes is a necessary, inexpensive and easy way to help destroy the appeal and morale of our common enemies,” he said.
"Trump’s bizarre, inconstant, incompetent, embarrassing, ridiculous behavior — what the left (naturally) perceives as his weaknesses — are to his supporters his strengths.
In other words, Trump is 4chan.
And I knew, I was on balance, luckier than most. My private school and private college education was the deviation from the norm. My chances were better than the majority of people my age. Yet here I was stone broke. All I owned (and still own) is my college debt. So it wasn’t a surprise there were a teeming mass of people out there who knew with fatalistic certainty that there was no way out. Why not then retreat into your parents’ basements? And instead of despairing over trying and failing, celebrate not-trying? Celebrate retreating into the fantasy worlds of the computer. Steer into the skid — Pepe style. Own it. And why wouldn’t they retreat to a place like 4chan? To let their resentment and failures curdle into something solid?
Like the Hollywood heroes, right and left have been competing to become this new radical anti-status quo party. And so far, in both Europe and America, the right has won, implying that, as Arendt predicted, the powerlessness created by bourgeoisie systems of capitalist exploitation might once again implode into far right totalitarianism."
Smithsonian Magazine: Why Did Greenland’s Vikings Vanish?
"the Vikings first traveled to Greenland not in search of new land to farm—a motive mentioned in some of the old sagas—but to acquire walrus-tusk ivory, one of medieval Europe’s most valuable trade items. Who, they ask, would risk crossing hundreds of miles of arctic seas just to farm in conditions far worse than those at home? As a low-bulk, high-value item, ivory would have been an irresistible lure for seafaring traders.
How profitable was the ivory trade? Every six years, the Norse in Greenland and Iceland paid a tithe to the Norwegian king. A document from 1327, recording the shipment of a single boatload of tusks to Bergen, Norway, shows that that boatload, with tusks from 260 walruses, was worth more than all the woolen cloth sent to the king by nearly 4,000 Icelandic farms for one six-year period.
Archaeologists once assumed that the Norse in Greenland were primarily farmers who did some hunting on the side. Now it seems clear that the reverse was true. They were ivory hunters first and foremost, their farms only a means to an end.
For all their intrepidness, though, the Norse were far from self-sufficient, and imported grains, iron, wine and other essentials. Ivory was their currency. “Norse society in Greenland couldn’t survive without trade with Europe,” says Arneborg, “and that’s from day one.”"
Me: Why Did the Balts never amount to anything worth mourning about?
"In France there are two very clear outcomes that work well for Russia: either Fillon gets elected, or Marine Le Pen. The early polls showed that the likely second round of voting would be a run off between MLP and Fillon. A win-win for Russia.
Instead, because Fillon had betrayed Sarkozy, or someone else similarly powerful within his party, he was knifed in the back. His petty embezzling was exposed and his poll numbers collapsed. Somehow, he has managed to stay in the race. Then there was a crucial rally for him. If he fails to draw a large crowd, he’ll probably have to drop out. The rally was rained out. Somehow, despite all this, Fillon is not done.
This is extremely interesting because it was not an anti Russian meddling counter attack, but rather internal French politics as usual. The result though, has been wonderful. Fillon was significantly more palatable than MLP so with him floundering, that makes for an interesting opening. It also takes one Russian horse out of the race, limiting their options and reducing their “win states.”
Now, the most recent development, both Fillon and MLP are under investigation. Misuse of public funds. MLP is essentially broke, she has only Russian money available to her. If she takes it, that’s going to look bad. If she doesn’t take it, she won’t have sufficient funds. Combined with the investigation, this may lead to both MLP and Fillon being forced out of the race due to circumstances.
Recommendation: take the Russian horse out of the race. Remove their incentives to interfere. Although they will likely still make some moves, even just as spoilers, they are robbed of the opportunity for victory. They have no winning outcome.
Speculation: Russia will target the investigations and attempt to damage the people or institutions involved, such as the judges or prosecutors. They’ll also figure out a way to get MLP some much needed cash. [..]
The most likely action is that Putin will continue to attack Macron. Probably not using a coordinated barrage like the beginning of February which saw Wikileaks, Russia Today and a few other outlets attempt to push a narrative (“Macron is a Rothschild banker,” which apparently has strong negative connotations for French voters.)
If I had to guess, I believe that curated “leaks” of Macron staff emails and Telegram conversations are going to be used to make him look bad. This is very likely to happen, I think, regardless of whether Fillon or MLP are still viable candidates."
“A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up.” ― Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength
ro·bot (n.) 1923, from English translation of 1920 play "R.U.R." ("Rossum's Universal Robots"), by Karel Capek (1890-1938), from Czech robotnik "forced worker," from robota "forced labor, compulsory service, drudgery," from robotiti "to work, drudge," from an Old Czech source akin to Old Church Slavonic rabota "servitude," from rabu "slave," from Old Slavic orbu-, from PIE orbh- "pass from one status to another" (see orphan).
Ancient hunter-gatherers mastered a very wide variety of skills in order to survive, which is why it would be immensely difficult to design a robotic hunter-gatherer. Such a robot would have to know how to prepare spear points from flint stones, find edible mushrooms in a forest, track down a mammoth, coordinate a charge with a dozen other hunters and use medicinal herbs to bandage any wounds. However, a taxi driver or a cardiologist specializes in a much narrower niche than a hunter-gatherer, which makes it easier to replace them with AI.
As algorithms push humans out of the job market, wealth and power might become concentrated in the hands of the tiny elite that owns the all-powerful algorithms, creating unprecedented social and political inequality.
Human law already recognizes intersubjective entities like corporations and nations as “legal persons.” Though Toyota or Argentina has neither a body nor a mind, they are subject to international laws, they can own land and money, and they can sue and be sued in court. We might soon grant similar status to algorithms. An algorithm could then own a transportation empire or a venture-capital fund without having to obey the wishes of any human master.
Before dismissing the idea, remember that most of our planet is already legally owned by non-human intersubjective entities, namely nations and corporations.
In the 21st century we might witness the creation of a massive new unworking class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society.
The crucial problem isn’t creating new jobs. The crucial problem is creating new jobs that humans perform better than algorithms.
Since we do not know how the job market would look in 2030 or 2040, today we have no idea what to teach our kids. Most of what they currently learn at school will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40. Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning, followed by a period of working. Very soon this traditional model will become utterly obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves repeatedly. Many, if not most, humans may be unable to do so. [This has already been the case for a while]
The coming technological bonanza will probably make it feasible to feed and support people even without any effort from their side. But what will keep them occupied and content? One answer might be drugs and computer games. Unnecessary people might spend increasing amounts of time within 3D virtual-reality worlds that would provide them with far more excitement and emotional engagement than the drab reality outside. Yet such a development would deal a mortal blow to the liberal belief in the sacredness of human life and of human experiences. What’s so sacred about useless bums who pass their days devouring artificial experiences?
Tikmēr Latvijā čušš, it nekas http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39
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