Category : Corporations/Corporate Life

(FA) Peter Bergen and David Sterman–The Real Terrorist Threat in America

Broader trends also raise the stakes. Trump has turned a blind eye to far-right terrorism, while some of his most prominent supporters such as Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter have denied the existence of a right-wing threat. Right-wing media personalities and activists, including Candace Owens and even the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., have peddled conspiracy theories regarding recent attacks. At the same time, politics, particularly on the right, is shifting into a more radical register. Recent public marches organized by the far right have resulted in violence, including the vehicular ramming that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally last year.

This new terrorist threat cannot be addressed with an overwhelming focus on jihadist ideology. Nor will a travel ban address a threat rooted in domestic politics and the Internet’s conveyance of global issues into American homes. Instead, today’s terrorist threat requires effective law enforcement, a real discussion of the dangers of lax gun laws, policies to regulate the ways social media has helped spread violence, community resilience, and a reckoning with the forces driving U.S. and global politics increasingly toward radicalism.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has been extraordinarily successful in disrupting foreign terrorist organizations’ ability to strike the United States. But the task of renewing and strengthening American society to face down the new terrorist threat could be even more difficult.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Globalization, Terrorism

(USA Today) Mom calls out YouTube video with hidden suicide plan for kids

A Florida-based pediatrician who is also a mother is calling out YouTube over a series of videos aimed at kids with inappropriate content, including one offering instructions on how to commit suicide.

Dr. Free Hess, who runs her own website called PediMom.com, said she first encountered the video with a clip of the suicide instructions edited in about seven months ago from a concerned parent.

Hess said although the clip was removed from YouTube Kids – a version of YouTube available as an app billed as kid friendly – it had resurfaced on YouTube.

A clip from the video recorded by Hess appears to show cartoonish characters from “Splatoon,” a video game made by Nintendo. Hess said more than four minutes in, the video abruptly flips to a man offering advice on how to commit suicide.

“There has to be a better way to assure this type of content is not being seen by our children,” said Hess in a blog post published last Friday. “We cannot continue to risk this.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Suicide, Teens / Youth

(LA Times) Your phone and TV are tracking you, and political campaigns are listening in

“We can put a pin on a building, and if you are in that building, we are going to get you,” said Democratic strategist Dane Strother, who advised Evers. And they can get you even if you aren’t in the building anymore, but were simply there at some point in the last six months.

Campaigns don’t match the names of voters with the personal information they scoop up — although that could be possible in many cases. Instead, they use the information to micro-target ads to appear on phones and other devices based on individual profiles that show where a voter goes, whether a gun range, a Whole Foods or a town hall debate over Medicare.

The spots would show up in all the digital places a person normally sees ads — whether on Facebook or an internet browser such as Chrome.

As a result, if you have been to a political rally, a town hall, or just fit a demographic a campaign is after, chances are good your movements are being tracked with unnerving accuracy by data vendors on the payroll of campaigns. The information gathering can quickly invade even the most private of moments.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Church Times) Government too soft on gambling ads, warns Bishop of St Albans

Dr Smith said, however, that there were insufficient penalties for companies who ignored the new standards. “With little consequences for companies flouting the rules, and few teeth to enforce these new directives, the Committee of Advertising Practice needs to step up their approach.

“With so many of the proposals relying on betting firms to self-regulate, I sadly have little hope for major changes to the way gambling advertises.

“This endless barrage of adverts has normalised gambling, and we now have 55,000 children who are problem gamblers and it is time for the gambling industry to take this issue seriously.

“It is our moral duty to protect young people from gambling-related harm, and I hope the Committee of Advertising Practice will support my General Synod motion demanding tighter regulation around gambling advertising.”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Church Commissioners welcome BP backing of shareholder resolution on Climate Chnage

The Church Commissioners and other investors have welcomed BP’s backing of their shareholder resolution on climate change.

The resolution, to be voted on at this year’s AGM this Spring, requires BP to set out:

  • Its business strategy which it considers, in good faith, to be consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change
  • How the company evaluates the consistency of each new material capital investment with the goals of the Paris Agreement
  • Related metrics and targets, consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, together with the anticipated levels of investment in oil and gas and other energy technologies; targets to promote operational greenhouse gas reductions; the estimated carbon intensity of energy products; and the linkage of its targets with executive remuneration.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(Irish Times) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshanna Zuboff: Data disaster

In two important and deeply personal books, Harvard Business School emeritus professor Shoshana Zuboff and Russian-born American journalist Yasha Levine reveal that such surveillance, by the corporate world and the state, is not a dirty exception but the rule; not a malfunction or mistake, but the norm. These surveillers are intrinsically and historically linked.

Zuboff’s massive The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (at 700-plus pages) will surely become a pivotal work in defining, understanding and exposing this surreptitious exploitation of our data and, increasingly, our free will.

Even “data”, as a term, erases the fact that it comprises the very essence of us – our likes and dislikes, our physical and emotional attributes, our social connections, our physical environment, the patterns of our daily lives. It is us, packaged and sold on for further exploitation.

“Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data”, which then is utilised to produce “surveillance revenue”, Zuboff writes.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(PA) Why are social media firms facing a crackdown?

Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said he was “deeply moved” by Molly’s story and acknowledged his platform was “not yet where we need to be” on the issues of suicide and self-harm.

Images that encourage the acts are banned, but the boss admitted that Instagram relies on users to report the content before it is purged.

“The bottom line is we do not yet find enough of these images before they’re seen by other people,” Mr Mosseri added.

But he said the Facebook-owned firm would introduce “sensitivity screens” making it harder for users to see images showing cutting.

The issue is not simple though.

He argues a key piece of advice from external experts is that “safe spaces” for young people to discuss their mental health issues online are essential, providing therapeutic benefits.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide, Teens / Youth

(Telegraph) Church of England calls for fines on harmful social media

Social media giants should face multi-million fines if they fail to take down damaging content that leads children to suffer self-harm, bullying or emotional distress, the Church of England says today.

The bishop who has led the Church’s campaigns on social media said the Government should introduce regulations similar to Germany’s where firms face fines of up to 50m Euros (£44m) if they fail to delete posts within 24 hours of a complaint.

It is the first time the Church has thrown its weight behind a duty of care – a centrepiece of The Telegraph’s campaign social media – that would give children the same protections online as they get in the real world.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth

([London] Times) Football is grooming children into gambling, says Bishop of St Albans

Children are being “groomed into gambling” by football and betting companies must be banned from sponsoring clubs’ shirts, a bishop has said.

It is the first time a Church of England leader has called for an outright ban, pointing out that nine out of 20 Premier League teams and 17 out of 24 Championship teams have a gambling company as their main shirt sponsor.

Today the church unveiled a set of proposals to be put to its General Synod calling on the government to “reduce the quantity and pervasiveness of gambling advertising” and to force betting companies to pay a levy to fund education and addiction treatment.

The Bishop of St Albans, who sits in the House of Lords, led the church’s successful campaign to limit how much can be wagered on fixed-odds betting terminals. He said that 55,000 teenagers in Britain were classed as problem gamblers and not enough had been done to shield children from gambling advertising since laws were liberalised in 2005.

(subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Sunday [London] Times) Revealed: how Big Tech pushes teens like Molly Russell to suicide

Thirty families have accused technology giants of abetting their children’s suicides in the wake of the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell, as the health secretary told social media sites to take responsibility for their effect on young lives.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Molly’s father, Ian, criticised the online scrapbook site Pinterest, as well as Instagram, for hosting disturbing content that he believes played a part in his daughter’s death.

“The more I looked [into Molly’s online accounts], the more there was that chill horror that I was getting a glimpse into something that had such profound effects on my lovely daughter,” he said. “Pinterest has a huge amount to answer for.”

Papyrus, a charity that works to prevent youth suicides, said it had been contacted by 30 families in the past week. Parents said they suspected social media had played a part in their children’s suicides.

A Sunday Times investigation found numerous graphic images of self-harm on Pinterest that could be viewed by children as young as 13.

Read it all (subscription needed).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Suicide, Teens / Youth

(Gallup) Seven in 10 Maintain Negative View of U.S. Healthcare System

Seventy percent of Americans describe the current U.S. healthcare system as being “in a state of crisis” or having “major problems.” This is consistent with the 65% to 73% range for this figure in all but one poll since Gallup first asked the question in 1994.

In that one poll — conducted right after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 — just 49% of Americans said the U.S. healthcare system had major problems or was in crisis. This was because of Americans’ heightened concerns about terrorism after the attacks, which temporarily altered their views and behaviors on a variety of issues.

The latest data are from Gallup’s annual Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 1-11.

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Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Sociology, Theology

(CC) David Heim interviews Kathryn Tanner–Can Christianity be a counterforce to finance capitalism?

In Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism you argue that we live in an era of finance-dominated capitalism in which wealth is determined primarily not through the production of goods and services but by various schemes to maximize profit and minimize risk in the financial markets. This kind of capitalism, you suggest, has created a new personality type. How would you describe the person who has fully imbibed “the new spirit of capitalism”?

Finance-dominated capitalism encourages people to think of themselves in the same way that profit-maximizing businesses think of them: their persons represent capital that must be put to maximally productive use. Simply put: each person must take individual responsibility for making the most out of his or her own life, in a life project that spans the whole of life, both at work and outside it. If one fails in such a project, one has no one but oneself to blame.

Finance-dominated capitalism also encourages a peculiar sort of time consciousness that prevents people from taking a critical distance on capitalism; they can’t imagine things ever being any different because of the way past, present, and future collapse into one another in finance-dominated capitalism. The present, for example, collapses into the past in which one assumed a debt or other obligation; that past rigidly constrains all future conduct. Or the urgency of present demands at work pushes out consideration of past and future; one hasn’t the time to consider anything more than the current emergency that stretches the entirety of one’s resources. Or the future, from which one hopes to profit in financial markets, becomes nothing more than the present expectations used to calculate it….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Atlantic) Brad Wilcox and Samuel Hammond–The stability of working-class family life has eroded—and elite policy makers are partially to blame

The work of the MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues, in particular, indicates that dramatic and sudden increases in global trade with China starting around 2000 affected both men’s earnings and their marriageability. In their words, “Trade shocks to manufacturing industries have particularly negative impacts on the labor market prospects of men and degrade their marriage-market value along multiple dimensions: diminishing their relative earnings—particularly at the lower segment of the distribution—reducing their physical availability in trade-impacted labor markets, and increasing their participation in risky and damaging behaviors.” They add that “adverse shocks to the supply of ‘marriageable’ men reduce the prevalence of marriage … but raise the fraction of children born to young and unwed mothers and living in poor single-parent households.”

These intertwined problems, then, were not the fault of a spontaneous decline in personal virtue. They were the fault of Washington elites who pursued a naive path of normalized trade with China that, in a matter of years, gutted millions of moderately educated workers of their decent-paying jobs, and without support in the way of adjustment assistance or wage insurance. Our elites had too much faith in a laissez-faire ideology that sees labor markets as automatically self-correcting but, in fact, exacted a terrible toll on scores of working-class families across the United States.

Cultural institutions also factor into this story. The primary shapers of our common culture—entertainers, journalists, educators, health-care professionals, politicians, and business executives—tend to challenge, downplay, or ignore the importance of strong and stable marriages in their public roles. Schools, child-care centers, and colleges, for instance, often celebrate atypical family structures or pass over the importance of marriage in classroom settings. In private, however, well-educated elites overwhelmingly value stable marriage for themselves and their kids. Indeed, they have “[reinvented] marriage as a child-rearing machine for a … knowledge economy” for themselves, as Richard Reeves, the co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families, has noted, adding that the “glue for these marriages” is largely “a joint commitment to high-investment parenting.”

Read it all and follow the links.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family

(Economist) Chip wars: China, America and silicon supremacy

Although the chip battle may have pre-dated Mr Trump, his presidency has intensified it. He has made a national champion of Qualcomm, blocking a bid for it from a Singaporean firm for fear of Chinese competition. Earlier this year an export ban on selling American chips and software to zte, a Chinese telecoms firm in breach of sanctions, brought it to the brink of bankruptcy within days. Startled by the looming harm, and (he says) swayed by appeals from Mr Xi, Mr Trump swiftly backtracked.

Two things have changed. First, America has realised that its edge in technology gives it power over China. It has imposed export controls that affect on Fujian Jinhua, another Chinese firm accused of stealing secrets, and the White House is mulling broader bans on emerging technologies. Second, China’s incentives to become self-reliant in semiconductors have rocketed. After zte, Mr Xi talked up core technologies. Its tech giants are on board: Alibaba, Baidu and Huawei are ploughing money into making chips. And China has showed that it can hinder American firms. Earlier this year Qualcomm abandoned a bid for nxp, a Dutch firm, after foot-dragging by Chinese regulators.

Neither country’s interests are about to change. America has legitimate concerns about the national-security implications of being dependent on Chinese chips and vulnerable to Chinese hacking. China’s pretensions to being a superpower will look hollow as long as America can throttle its firms at will. China is destined to try to catch up; America is determined to stay ahead.

The hard question is over the lengths to which America should go.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(BBC) Royal Dutch Shell ties executive pay to carbon reduction

Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell is to set carbon emission targets and link them to its executive pay.

The Anglo-Dutch company has made the move after pressure from investors, led by asset manager Robeco and the Church of England Pensions Board.

The groups said they believed “climate change to be one of the greatest systemic risks facing society today”.

Shell will link energy transition and long-term pay, subject to a shareholder vote in 2020.

The firm is still in talks with investors over the precise figures over carbon targets and what percentage of pay might be affected, but it is estimated that as many as 1,300 high-level employees could be…[involved].

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(NBC) Starbucks says it will start blocking pornography on its stores’ Wi-Fi in 2019

The announcement was first reported by Business Insider and comes after a petition from internet-safety advocacy group Enough is Enough garnered more than 26,000 signatures.

The nonprofit launched a porn-free campaign aimed at McDonald’s and Starbucks in 2014, and it says that while McDonald’s “responded rapidly and positively,” Starbucks did not.

Starbucks said in 2016 that the company was “in active discussions with organizations on implementing the right, broad-based solution that would remove any illegal and other egregious content,” according to a statement Monday by Enough is Enough CEO Donna Rice Hughes. But they didn’t act, she said.

“Starbucks has had a tremendous opportunity to put its best foot forward in protecting its customers from images deemed obscene and illegal under the law, but they haven’t budged, despite their promise two years ago and despite the fact that they voluntarily filter this same content in the UK,” Hughes said in the statement.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pornography, Theology

(Church Times) Church investors challenge anti-climate change lobbying

The Church of England Pensions Board is leading a powerful coalition of investors which is challenging multinational companies to stop supporting trade associations and lobbying groups opposed to the Paris climate agreement.

The $2-trillion worth of investors, led by the Church and the Swedish national pension fund AP7, have targeted 55 companies with high greenhouse-gas emissions who were found to be inconsistent in their climate policy by a charity that monitors lobbying activity.

Companies targeted include some of the world’s best-known car producers, including Volvo and BMW, the energy firms E.ON and Centrica, and the food producer Nestlé.

The coalition of investors has asked the companies to review the “insidious” lobbying practices that are being adopted by their trade associations and lobbying companies, to ensure that they are consistent with the company’s own stated support for the Paris climate agreement.

The letter to the chair of each company said: “We would ask you to review the lobbying positions being adopted by the organisations of which you are a member. If these lobbying positions are inconsistent with the goals of the Paris agreement, we would encourage you to ensure they adopt positions which are in line with these goals.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

A WSJ Profile Article About life at Netflix: A Company where Radical Transparency and Blunt Firings Unsettle the Ranks

The Netflix way emphasizes “freedom and responsibility,” trusting employees to use discretion—whether it is about taking vacation, flying business class or expensing an Uber ride home. Virtually every employee can access sensitive information, from how many subscribers sign up in each country to viewership of shows to contractual terms for Netflix’s production deals. Executives at the director level and above—some 500 people—can see the salaries of every employee.

Employees are encouraged to give one another blunt feedback. Managers are all told to apply a “keeper test” to their staff—asking themselves whether they would fight to keep a given employee—a mantra for firing people who don’t fit the culture and ensuring only the strongest survive.

Staying true to Mr. Hastings’ vision, always difficult, is getting harder thanks to the breakneck pace of growth and change at the company. In little over a decade, Netflix has gone from a DVD-by-mail outfit to a globe-spanning Hollywood powerhouse with more than 6,000 full- and part-time employees, including nearly 2,000 added just this year so far.

“As you scale a company to become bigger and bigger how do you scale that kind of culture?” said Colin Estep, a former senior engineer who left voluntarily in 2016. “I don’t know that we ever had a good answer.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Movies & Television, Pastoral Theology

(FT) The UK facing is ‘crisis of capitalism’, says Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has warned that Britain is facing a “crisis of capitalism”, citing excessive executive pay and unrepentant bankers as symptoms of a system that was teetering on a precipice.

Mr Welby claimed that many in Britain’s economic elite had failed to learn the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis, that bankers still felt a sense of “cultural entitlement” and that market capitalism was in peril.

“Things could go very seriously wrong,” the former oil executive told the Financial Times in an interview, warning that growing public anger about inequality was fuelling extremism in many parts of the world.

“It can turn very, very strongly against business,” he said. “So you can get a snap back of the elastic, which is not good for business or for society because it’s a revenge regulation.”

“It’s more than a crisis of capitalism, it’s also a national crisis.” The archbishop said the country faced a moment of choice, and that a new moral dimension had to be introduced into Britain’s economy before it was too late.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Finding It Hard to Focus? Maybe It’s Not Your Fault The rise of the new “attention economy.”

It was the big tech equivalent of “drink responsibly” or the gambling industry’s “safer play”; the latest milestone in Silicon Valley’s year of apology. Earlier this month, Facebook and Instagram announced new tools for users to set time limits on their platforms, and a dashboard to monitor one’s daily use, following Google’s introduction of Digital Well Being features.

In doing so the companies seemed to suggest that spending time on the internet is not a desirable, healthy habit, but a pleasurable vice: one that if left uncontrolled may slip into unappealing addiction.

Having secured our attention more completely than ever dreamed, they now are carefully admitting it’s time to give some of it back, so we can meet our children’s eyes unfiltered by Clarendon or Lark; go see a movie in a theater; or contra Apple’s ad for its watch, even go surfing without — heaven forfend — “checking in.”

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time,” writes James Williams, a technologist turned philosopher and the author of a new book, “Stand Out of Our Light.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Media, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Atlantic) Alexis Madrigal–Facebook believes too strongly in the goodness of people

In an unusually revealing moment for Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg told Recode’s Kara Swisher on Wednesday that he didn’t support taking down content about Holocaust denial on Facebook. Zuckerberg is Jewish, and he finds such denials “deeply offensive,” he said. But Holocaust deniers were not “intentionally getting it wrong.”

When Swisher followed up that “in the case of Holocaust deniers, they might be,” Zuckerberg retreated to a stance he’s never quite made explicit before. “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said.

In place of “understanding” the intent, this statement makes clear that Facebook takes a default stance of assuming users act in good faith—or without intention, at least. Zuckerberg and Facebook have been repeatedly criticized, and accepted the criticism as largely true, that they have been too willing to ignore the potential negative ways the platform can be used. And yet here, one of the basic principles of how they moderate speech is to be so optimistic as to give Holocaust deniers the benefit of the doubt.

Zuckerberg seems to be imagining a circumstance where somebody watched a YouTube video that makes a case against the (real, documented, horrifying) Holocaust and ignorantly posts it to Facebook. Under the rules the platform has established, there is no penalty for that (in countries where Holocaust denial is not illegal)….

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, History, Judaism, Theology, Violence

(LA Times) Avram Mlotek–Google could use a little godliness

Whether they realize it or not, technology leaders are writing a virtual universal constitution. What they’re doing is important to humanity. With a little spiritual guidance, maybe it’ll be easier for them to pause the emoji barrage and hear the human voice.

Just as clergy offer counsel to their congregants, the users, let’s bring chaplains into tech offices, the providers. Sure, it may be hard to envision the Pope giving a talk on sexuality at Tinder, but it’s a new dawn. Anything is possible and this rabbi is ready for the unexplored frontier. Google, you know where to find me.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(FT) How business is capitalising on the millennial Instagram obsession

The tables at the Tsubaki Salon are slightly wobbly. No more than a couple of millimetres off kilter, but enough to be noticeable.

This is puzzling because, in all other respects, this highest of high-end pancake houses, nestling among the haute-couture flagships of Tokyo’s Ginza district and fitted out in bracingly minimalist decor, is perfection. The plates and cups are the definition of Japanese ceramic elegance. The spindly handled spoons and forks have been created by one of the country’s most famous designers to fit the pinnacle of pancake Epicureanism. When it comes to the edible stars of the show — made using a complex technique — they too, in the view of the pancake cognoscenti, are flawless.

But what about that wobble? “It’s deliberate,” says Yukari Mori, nudging the table a little to demonstrate that even this imperfection is perfection. “They were designed this way to show off what makes these pancakes so good.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Japan, Photos/Photography, Science & Technology, Young Adults

(NA) Adam White–Amid growing calls to break up Google, are we missing a quiet alignment between “smart” government and the universal information engine?

Google exists to answer our small questions. But how will we answer larger questions about Google itself? Is it a monopoly? Does it exert too much power over our lives? Should the government regulate it as a public utility — or even break it up?

In recent months, public concerns about Google have become more pronounced. This February, the New York Times Magazine published “The Case Against Google,” a blistering account of how “the search giant is squelching competition before it begins.” The Wall Street Journal published a similar article in January on the “antitrust case” against Google, along with Facebook and Amazon, whose market shares it compared to Standard Oil and AT&T at their peaks. Here and elsewhere, a wide array of reporters and commentators have reflected on Google’s immense power — not only over its competitors, but over each of us and the information we access — and suggested that the traditional antitrust remedies of regulation or breakup may be necessary to rein Google in.

Dreams of war between Google and government, however, obscure a much different relationship that may emerge between them — particularly between Google and progressive government. For eight years, Google and the Obama administration forged a uniquely close relationship. Their special bond is best ascribed not to the revolving door, although hundreds of meetings were held between the two; nor to crony capitalism, although hundreds of people have switched jobs from Google to the Obama administration or vice versa; nor to lobbying prowess, although Google is one of the top corporate lobbyists.

Rather, the ultimate source of the special bond between Google and the Obama White House — and modern progressive government more broadly — has been their common ethos. Both view society’s challenges today as social-engineering problems, whose resolutions depend mainly on facts and objective reasoning. Both view information as being at once ruthlessly value-free and yet, when properly grasped, a powerful force for ideological and social reform. And so both aspire to reshape Americans’ informational context, ensuring that we make choices based only upon what they consider the right kinds of facts — while denying that there would be any values or politics embedded in the effort.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, The U.S. Government

AS Haley on the Ongoing South Carolina Episcopal Church litigation mess–“O, What a Tangled Web We Weave . . .”

Thus two of the Justices viewed this case as one in which the civil courts should “defer” to the “ecclesiastical authorities” — even though South Carolina is a “neutral principles” State, in which “deference” has no role! — while the third reaches his result based “strictly applying neutral principles of law.” Two of them simply “reverse” the decision below (and one only in part), while only Justice Hearn declares the whole kit and caboodle to belong to her own denomination.

The first two Justices would thus have overruled the leading South Carolina neutral principles case, All Saints Parish Waccamaw v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, but two votes do not suffice for that. They would have required a third vote to overrule that decision, and they never obtained that third vote. So the neutral principles doctrine of All Saints Waccamaw stands unchanged.

Nor did Justice Hearn get any other Justice to buy into her “constructive trust” rationale (unless Justice Pleicones may be said to have done so by “joining” in her opinion). But that was not a ground urged on appeal by ECUSA or its rump diocese — so Justice Hearn gratuitously inserted her views on an issue that was not properly before the Court.

Finally, only two of the Justices (Hearn and Beatty) mentioned Camp Christopher — the retreat property that belongs not to any one parish, but to the Diocese itself. The Dennis Canon does not apply to the property of a diocese, and so it cannot be used to transfer ownership. For Justice Hearn, “deference” requires that result, while for Chief Justice Beatty, the result follows from the fact that he cannot see how Bishop Lawrence’s Diocese is the “successor” to the diocese that owned the property before the lawsuit began. (But the Diocese did not go anywhere — it is still the same South Carolina religious corporation it always was. So how can there be any question of whether a Diocese can “succeed” itself? The Chief Justice went out on a limb, and no one joined him.)

An even bigger problem for Judge Goodstein on remand, however, is how she should regard the opinion of Justice Hearn, who belatedly recused herself due to a (presumed) perception of a conflict of interest. (You think?) Which is to say, she never should have participated in the case to begin with.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Corporations/Corporate Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(Marketplace) The CEO of Reddit: “We are not the thought police … but we do care about how you behave”

Steve Huffman: So Reddit is a network of communities. We have communities that cover pretty much any topic imaginable. Stuff you would recognize, you know, news, sports, politics, internet culture, memes, you know, what’s going on and things you might not find elsewhere online. And we also have a pretty deep network and support community, so places you might go when you’re having difficult times in life — whether you’re going through a divorce or maybe struggling with addiction. Reddit, globally, is a place where you can find community and belonging.

David Brancaccio: So some profound things, a lot of profound things, a lot of sort of silly little things.

Huffman: Yes. And people come to Reddit for a variety of different reasons, right? You might come to get your daily dose and see what’s going on today. You might come because you have five minutes and you need a few laughs, or you might come because, hey, you need support and help and camaraderie, and we deal in that, too.

Brancaccio: It is actually how some of my own offspring get their news. They get it from Reddit. You know, “I saw on Reddit,” and it’s actual news — a link to a news story, and there it is.

Huffman: Quite a bit of people get their news from Reddit.

Brancaccio: All right, but there’s a lot of speech because of all these topics, and some of it is stuff that none of us wants to see. Sometimes it’s racist. You have a sense that people should say pretty much what they want on Reddit, just they can’t do anything. It’s the behavior that you’re focused on.

Huffman: Exactly. So Reddit is a very broad place and we see pretty much — we think of ourselves in many respects as a reflection of humanity. But just like in humanity, there is a darker side in this, people who say things that might be offensive or fringe. And the way we think about that is trying to draw a line between behavior and beliefs. We are not the thought police. We don’t want to control what you believe, but we do care about how you behave. So for example: Our content policies prohibit spam inciting violence, harassing and bullying. Those things are, I think, objective behaviors that we don’t want to see on the site.

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Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

(Bloomberg) Google Is Training Machines to Predict When a Patient Will Die

A woman with late-stage breast cancer came to a city hospital, fluids already flooding her lungs. She saw two doctors and got a radiology scan. The hospital’s computers read her vital signs and estimated a 9.3 percent chance she would die during her stay.

Then came Google’s turn. An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman — 175,639 data points — and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9 percent. She passed away in a matter of days.

The harrowing account of the unidentified woman’s death was published by Google in May in research highlighting the health-care potential of neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence software that’s particularly good at using data to automatically learn and improve. Google had created a tool that could forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die.

What impressed medical experts most was Google’s ability to sift through data previously out of reach: notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts. The neural net gobbled up all this unruly information then spat out predictions. And it did it far faster and more accurately than existing techniques. Google’s system even showed which records led it to conclusions.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Recode) Designer babies are just one example of the ethical dilemmas faced by the genomics industry

We could live in a future world where people pick and choose the traits their babies have, but it may not be the right thing to do.

It’s just one of the many ethical dilemmas that Francis deSouza, CEO of genomics testing company Illumina, who was interviewed by CNBC’s Christina Farr Wednesday at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. llumina sells DNA sequencing technology to companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com.

“There was a wealthy industrialist mogul from Silicon Valley who was curious about designer babies for him and his partner,” said deSouza. “With that much power, there are lots of questions that we will have to address about what it means to be human.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Theology

([London) Times) Google dreams up future of manipulating everyone

Google has imagined a future where it uses enormous quantities of data it collects on individuals to manipulate their behaviour and achieve “desired results” for the whole species.

In a leaked video from the company’s secretive X research division, the narrator cites Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene and depicts Google’s data as a “selfish ledger” which treats users as “transient carriers” or “survival mechanisms” for valuable data.

He says that the ledger could move beyond a passive record to actively influence people’s actions, in line with Google’s “values”. If Google didn’t have enough data on a particular user its algorithms would identify a suitable “smart” product to sell him or her to gather that data.

Google dismissed the video as a “thought experiment” unrelated to any present or future plans. However, analysts said that the dystopian future it painted was plausible. Similar ideas can be found in some of the firm’s patent applications, including one for “detecting and correcting potential errors in user behaviour”.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Psychology, Science & Technology

FT: Executives who ignore their own health are in no position to lead

I recently asked a trio of entrepreneurs what they wished they had known before they set out on the path to leadership.

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, who now heads Thrive Global, which aims to end the “stress and burnout epidemic”, told me: “I wish I knew what I discovered the hard way in 2007 when I collapsed from exhaustion . . . That [it is a] delusion that in order to succeed we have to be always on.”

“I wish somebody would have told me how hard it is,” said Anna Skaya, chief executive of Basepaws, which is building a database of feline DNA.

“There are obstacles all the time. All the time,” added designer Diane von Furstenberg, who heads the eponymous fashion group. “Listen, I have a lot of energy . . . That doesn’t mean that I don’t wake up thinking like I’m a total loser, [even] now.”

It probably takes a successful entrepreneur-founder to admit such truths. Even in a world where there is increasing acknowledgment of the dangers of workplace stress, this kind of leadership lesson is only rarely taught in business schools, still less by leadership manuals of the “five ways to be awesome” variety.

Yet this understanding of the many hurdles facing any leader is embedded in the 3,000-year-old Judeo-Christian culture of teaching about how to lead, according to Steven Croft, the Anglican Bishop of Oxford….

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology