We’ll spare you the easy Uber jokes and get right to it. The ridesharing service is not having a good week after a couple of Buzzfeed articles hit social media. It seems Uber executives might like to surveil both customers and critics. The WaPo has this:

The controversy stemmed from remarks by Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael on Friday night as he spoke of his desire to spend $1 million to dig up information on “your personal lives, your families,” referring to journalists who write critically about the company, according to a report published Monday night by Buzzfeed. The same story said a different Uber executive once had examined the private travel records of a Buzzfeed reporter during an e-mail exchange about an article without seeking permission to access the data.

That combination of vindictiveness and willingness to tap into user information provoked outrage Tuesday on social-media sites, spawning the hashtag “#ubergate” on Twitter. Critics recounted a series of Uber privacy missteps, including a 2012 blog post in which a company official analyzed anonymous ridership data in Washington and several other cities in an attempt to determine the frequency of overnight sexual liaisons by customers — which Uber dubbed “Rides of Glory.”

Our daily interaction with tech companies means “we have never been more extortable,” according Chris Hoofnagle, a UC Berkeley law professor specializing in online privacy.

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Categories : Economy, National
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Fracking continues to gain in unpopularity. During the recent election, candidates and campaigners told me one sure way to flip voters from the opposition — especially rural voters — was to inform them the Republican supported fracking.

There’s trouble at t’drill in Bakersfield, CA. “Errors were made.” (video at KNTV link):

State officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump nearly three billion gallons of waste water into underground aquifers that could have been used for drinking water or irrigation.

Those aquifers are supposed to be off-limits to that kind of activity, protected by the EPA.

Nah. Never happen where you live, right?

“This is something that is going to slowly contaminate everything we know around here,” said fourth- generation Kern County almond grower Tom Frantz, who lives down the road from several of the injection wells in question.

According to state records, as many as 40 water supply wells, including domestic drinking wells, are located within one mile of a single well that’s been injecting into non-exempt aquifers.

Kern County community organizer Juan Flores told reporters, “No one from this community will drink from the water from out of their well. The people are worried. They’re scared.”

But there’s nothing to see here, little people:

The trade association that represents many of California’s oil and gas companies says the water-injection is a “paperwork issue.” In a statement issued to NBC Bay Area, Western States Petroleum Association spokesman Tupper Hull said “there has never been a bona vide claim or evidence presented that the paperwork confusion resulted in any contamination of drinking supplies near the disputed injection wells.”

However, state officials tested 8 water supply wells within a one-mile radius of some of those wells.
Four water samples came back with higher than allowable levels of nitrate, arsenic, and thallium.
Those same chemicals are used by the oil and gas industry in the hydraulic fracturing process and can be found in oil recovery waste-water.

“We are still comparing the testing of what was the injection water to what is the tested water that came out of these wells to find out if they were background levels or whether that’s the result of oil and gas operation, but so far it’s looking like it’s background,” said James Marshall from the California Department of Conservation.

Marshall acknowledged that those chemicals could have come from oil extraction, and not necessarily wastewater disposal.

I know, right? What a relief.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Environment, Water
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A 13-year-old teen attending a soccer tournament in Raleigh, NC died in his hotel room, in his bed Friday night:

Nathan Andrew Clark was staying in the Comfort Suites hotel while he participated in the Capital Area Soccer League tournament.

At approximately 11 p.m., a woman who was in the room with him called 911, saying that she “had no idea” what happened to the teen, only that he was bleeding profusely from a bump on the back of his head.

Clark was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police quickly determined that Clark had been shot, and located Randall Louis Vater, who was in a nearby room and in possession of firearms. They said that Vater accidentally discharged his weapon, and that the round traveled through the wall and into Clark’s room, where it fatally struck him.

Vater has a long history with law enforcement, having served time in prison on charges ranging from violating a restraining order to communicating threats to hit-and-run. He was in police custody as recently as October 25, according to Department of Public Safety records.

Police charged Vater with “involuntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.”

Nothing left to say.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sunday Morning Music

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but the ostensibly pro-stupidity Weekly Standard put up an anti-Bruce screed after this performance. Maybe it hit a little too close to home.

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Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Sadly, there’s no hooker with a heart of gold to melt the cold hearts of corporate raiders stripping America for parts. (Where’s Julia Roberts when you really need her?) But some people are, however, finally seeing the vultures for who they really are. Take the Trans-Texas Corridor, for example [emphasis mine]:

The TTC, a proposed 4,000-mile toll road, rail and utility project, died a death of a thousand cuts in 2010. First proposed as a much-needed infrastructure investment, the well-intentioned project grew into a monstrosity of politically connected contractors, private property concerns and conspiracy theories. The biggest blow to TTC was statewide opposition to granting Spanish-owned developer Cintra a 50-year, multibillion-dollar deal to control and collect tolls on a concrete corridor bisecting the very heart of Texas. The plan even proposed turning over to Cintra land seized by eminent domain, where the company could franchize roadside amenities like hotels and rest stops to supplement its collected fees.

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Categories : Privatization
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That right-wing bugaboo, political correctness, can actually enhance creativity, says Dr. Jack Goncalo, associate professor of organizational behaviors at Cornell. He took hundreds of test subjects, broke them into small groups, and asked some at random to be “politically correct” or “polite.”

All were then asked to spend 10 minutes brainstorming business ideas. Creativity was measured by counting the number of ideas generated and by coding them for novelty.

Contrary to the widely held notion that being politically correct has a generally stifling effect, the results showed that a politically correct norm actually boosted the creative output of mixed-sex groups …

Although political correctness has often been associated with lowered expectations and a censor of behavior, the new culture actually provides a foundation upon which demographically heterogeneous work groups can freely exchange creative ideas, Goncalo said.

Setting boundaries and norms for behavior reduces uncertainty and made men and women more comfortable sharing creative ideas. The effects were reversed in same-sex groups where behavioral expectations are presumably more defined. The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman writes that PC norms apply peer pressure to prevent people from behaving badly who otherwise might:

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Friday Open Thread

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What’s the news across the nation?

Categories : Open Thread
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The Other is marrying

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It seems marriage equality is still on the move, scoring victories Wednesday in Kansas and South Carolina:

Gay marriage advocates won another two victories on Wednesday as the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Kansas to become the 33rd U.S. state where same-sex couples can wed and a federal judge struck down South Carolina’s ban.

The high court declined a request from Kansas officials to block U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree’s Nov. 4 ruling that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

And, by the way, a hearing on marriage equality Wednesday in Mississippi. From Aaron Sarver at Campaign for Southern Equality just last night:

After 6 hours in federal court today, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves concluded the hearing in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant by stating he would rule “as soon as possible” in the case.

We’re hopeful that a ruling striking down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage will indeed come soon.

All this rush of inclusion has a darker counterpoint. JT Eberhard writes at the WWJTDo blog about the reaction to a letter in the local paper:

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A gated democracy

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Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco. Image by Almonroth via Wikimedia Commons

The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years the New York Times declares this morning, condemning continued efforts to suppress turnout among poor, minority and younger voters. They don’t even bother to add qualifiers anymore when calling out Republicans for voter suppression.

Sean McElwee at Huffington Post runs down some preliminary analysis of new voting restrictions. Photo ID laws, eliminating same-day registration, and felon disenfranchisement were contributing factors in the low turnout.

More than 600,000 in Texas could not vote this year because they lacked the newly required documents. How many tried and were turned away? The nonpartisan Election Protection Voter help line received over 2,000 calls in Texas, according to the Brennan Center’s director of its Democracy Program, Wendy Weiser. A federal judge had determined that the Texas law was purposely designed to suppress minority votes.

As Ari Berman wrote last week, “Since Republican legislatures across the country implemented new voting restrictions after 2010 and the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, it’s become easier to buy an election and harder to vote in one.”

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Somebody’s got his declining ratings in a wad. Rush Limbaugh is threatening to sue the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

The legal threat is the result of DCCC fundraising appeals sent out in the wake of Limbaugh’s on-air comments about a new policy at Ohio State University that instructs students to get verbal consent before having sex. The DCCC highlighted one particular sentence from his commentary — “How many of you guys .?.?. have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?” — saying it was tantamount to condoning sexual assault.

Limbaugh says the DCCC took the comment out of context and twisted it in its fundraising appeals. “We love opinions, but this crossed a very bright line,” said Limbaugh’s spokesman, Brian Glicklich, in an interview. “They lied about his words. They quoted something specific and out of context, and it is a lie.”

Uh, that’s Limbaugh’s business model, pal. Is Rush suing for defamation or patent infringement?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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