No More Net Neutrality and, From Russia with Love

So it’s just that kind of day.

I’m not sure what more I can say.

FCC puts the Internet up for sale.

Putin and Trump are best friends forever. (“Hacking Democracy,” Washington Post, 12/15)

Ray Myers

P.S. For a diversion from the present state of world power politics and Internet control, please have a look and listen at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

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Net Neutrality in the U.S.

Only one day left before the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. votes on plans to abandon Net Neutrality in favor of lifting restrictions on Internet providers. In other words, allow Internet providers to become more entrepreneurial in offering their services at competitive market rates. I think we all know what this means: consumers will now have to pay more and receive less in terms of services provided.

In terms of trying to better understand the impact of these proposed changes, and as a means registering your opposition (assumed), please visit this site to make your voice heard: https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/

The full power and potential of the Internet should not be left to only those who can afford it!

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

Realizing the Civil Rights Dream – Can Technology Help? (Retweet w/corrections)

I am retweeting this post from yesterday with my apologies. I have corrected the title, and added categories and tags.

Faculty and students gathered at the Berkley Center in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 12th for a discussion with Rev. Kenneth Bedell, who explored questions of American race relations and sociology in his newest book, “Realizing the Civil Rights Dream: Diagnosing and Treating American Racism.”

One Georgetown student, Andrea Su, commented that she was “really surprised at how much of an open discussion the Q&A section was. It was awesome to be able to engage in one discussion a reverend, a sociologist, and a handful of professors and students in some really raw and challenging questions on racism and racial injustice in this country. She hopes more opportunities like this one will come to Georgetown.” Fortunately, in our Information age, you don’t have to come to Georgetown to join in this discussion. Please feel free to visit the website mentioned below, and post any comments you may have. Additionally, with the many different information and communication technologies available to us today, you can also join in and continue this discussion in any preferred social media platform.

http://www.civilrightsdream.com/georgetown-university-students-faculty-and-guests-discuss-racism

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India

Put Down Your Laptops, Pick Up Your Pencils

Silicon Valley may find this all too hard to believe, but researchers are now finding that bringing your laptop to class and typing your notes verbatim as the professor speaks, may actually undermine the learning process. Typing out your handwritten notes later on your preferred digital device may be the better practice to reinforce your retention of material that has been presented in class.

“But a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings and in all kinds of workplaces (Dynarski, University of Michigan, 2017).”

I guess it’s time to sharpen our pencils, and put our “thinking caps” back on!

Ray Myers

P.S. I will be posting again on next Wednesday, December 6. In the meantime, please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India.

Kids and Smartphones

We really don’t know what the long-term effects of “mobile technology” will be on our current school-age and under school-age generations in America (and the world?). Unfortunately, much of the preliminary data suggest that we have to do something to control its indiscriminate and obsessive use. “What this generation is going through right now with technology is a giant experiment (Jensen, University of Pennsylvania).”

As researchers debate appropriate public health messaging, kids are receiving their first smartphones at even younger ages – the average is 10, according to one recent estimate – and they’re spending more and more time on their devices. “I am probably on my phone 10 hours a day,” says Santiago Potocnik Senarahi, a 16-year-old 11th grader in Denver. Even when he’s not using his phone, it’s always with him, and he never considers taking a break. “This is part of my life and part of my work, and [that] means I need to be in constant contact.” “The more we learn about kids and Smartphones, the more we’re going to see that limiting their exposure is a good idea (Twenge, San Diego State University).”

I will be back on Monday with a list of some “Tips the Get Teens to Put Down Their Smartphones.” And maybe these tips will also help some of us in the “older generations?”

Ray Myers

Technology and Young Eyes – Go Outdoors!

Maybe you worry about your children spending so much time in front of computer screens that it has a detrimental effect on their vision. The ready availability of technology may make the children of today faster at configuring a new smartphone, but does all of that screen time affect the development of their vision? As reported in recent research by two optometrists at Ohio State University (Zadnik & Mutti), another factor may be a more critical factor.

To their surprise, more time outdoors has a protective effect and reduced the chances that a child would go on to need myopic refractive correction. Without reporting on all the research that has gone into this determination, here is the dominant theory or conclusion: “The brighter light outside stimulates the release of dopamine from the specialized cells in the retina. Dopamine then initiates a molecular signaling cascade that ends with slower, normal growth of the eye, which means no myopia.” Actual light exposure, not just a decrease in the time spent reading because children are outdoors is the explanation for this “magic.”

No one before has ever said playing outside could help you prevent or minimize nearsightedness? I should have spent more time time playing outside when I was younger. In my case it was not the computer screen that intrigued me. It was TV.

Ray Myers

Call Centers Come Home

I was always intrigued with the fact that I could be talking to someone in an Indian call center when I needed some type of customer service with practically anything I owned. I had lived and worked in northern Mysore State (now Karnataka), of which Bangalore is the capital city. Thanks to the technology of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, this was now all possible. When I worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India in the mid-sixties, international telephone connections were not what they are today. But with the advent of the Internet and world-wide connectivity, we are now able to “reach out” to someone anytime anywhere.

India offered a highly educated English-speaking workforce who were proficient in communicating in English, but unfortunately still faced a barrier when in came to American English nuance and even pronunciation. There were economic advantages, of course, to contracting offshore for customer service for American companies in those early days. Now with the ubiquity of technology and connectivity at bargain rates across the States and in other English-speaking parts of the world, American companies can now begin to capitalize on the use of native American English speakers catering to the an almost exclusive American clientele. The reality is that most Americans are frankly much more comfortable speaking with “one of their own,” especially when you are talking about making a business transaction. But maybe I’m wrong?

Roughly three million Americans work as customer service representatives in call centers and home offices across the United States. I am sure that there is also a huge economic benefit to these American companies. Home sweet home!

Ray Myers

Procedural Failures May Kill You, Seriously!

Sorry for the late posting today.  Things got busy at home.  Here goes.  The Air Force says it failed to follow policies for alerting federal law enforcement about Devin P. Kelley’s  violent past, enabling the former service member, who killed at least 26 churchgoers Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Tex., to obtain firearms before the shooting rampage.

“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered onto the National Criminal Information Center database.”  Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff General David Goldfein have directed an investigation of Kelly’s case and relevant policies and procedures.  Somehow this National Criminal Center database did not have all the information about Kelley that was supposed to be in it.  Otherwise he would never have been able to buy the massive amounts of weapons he possessed.  A “data entry” problem you say?  U.S. Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal suspect more than that. Discussions around “Big Data” repositories are all the rage in our increasingly data-driven world.  But all this data is only as good as the competence of those persons overseeing and managing its thoroughness and accuracy.   Relevant data can not be allowed to slip through the cracks, resulting in deadly consequences for innocent Americans.  

Whatever “procedural missteps” that occurred here will certainly be identified and corrected in time, but I believe that the larger issue still remains with our obsession over the right to bear arms.  For anyone?

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be back next Monday, November 13.  Observing Veterans’ Day on Friday.

Trump Tweets While We Burn

I used to think that tweeting was just for fun.  You really don’t have to think too hard and if you can learn all the abbreviations and other Twitter short-cuts, you can really pack a lot of thoughts (?) in those 140/280 characters.  I never really thought you could become president of the United States by doing this?  Well I guess I am wrong again.  I suppose we have all been “trumped,” at least those of us who may have voted for another candidate in last year’s election.  You know who you are.

Trump has used his Twitter account since March 2009.  He has tweeted more than 36,000 times and has 41.7 million followers. Trump has credited his use of social media as among one of the main reasons he was elected.  “You have to keep people interested also.  You know, you have to keep people interested.”  Twitter also serves as one of Trump’s main tools for deflecting criticisms and attacks.  He has said, “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing, and I take care of it.”  Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated for 11 minutes Thursday night by a company employee on his last day on the job. Maybe he/she was just trying to exert some type of “executive privilege.”

Or perhaps he/she was just trying to fact check some of  Trump’s tweets, in which case the “fake facts” just overloaded the system.

Ray Myers

Automated Dining in an Automated World – Still Hungry for Something Else? 

I think it used to be a novelty.  At least that is how I remembered going to a Horn and Hardart Automat when I was a boy and being intrigued by the process of opening tiny glass doors to retrieve your favorite dishes.  It has been a while since I have experienced this self-service feature but from what I have read about today’s automats are that they are more technologically enhanced and offer a more varied menu that would even appeal to vegetarian diners.  Now it appears that diners are frowning upon “faceless dining.”

Eve Turow Paul recently wrote in Forbes magazine that “the links between technology and increasing rates of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.  Many in this young generation battle a creeping sense of nugatory existence by connecting over a meal – whether it’s by cooking for family, dining out with friends, or chatting with others online about gluten-free recipes.  My research clearly shows these human-facing moments and different instances of interaction help soothe this digitally-connected generation.”

Funny, I don’t remember family meal times as always being a “soothing experience.”   But I guess that we all got to know more about each other in a “face-to-face” way.

Ray Myers

P.S.  Happy Halloween 👻, everyone.  I will be back next Friday after a Halloween break with family.  I hope it’s not too scary!


Facebook and Google and Amazon, Oh My!

Don’t worry, Dorothy, these tech giants aren’t as dangerous as those “Lions and Tigers and Bears” that you worried about in the land of Oz, or are they?  I guess I just get worried when I hear words like “lobbying Congress” on behalf of more transparency in government regulation – not that there is anything wrong with that.  But it seems that the people who are making the most financial benefit at this point are the lobbyists on K Street, D.C.  Now I know that those lobbyists are real “truth-seekers,” and maybe they do know all about “disinformation” campaigns, but how do you legislate for transparency on the Internet?  Do we currently make all advertisers on public and commercial media do that now?

“The lawmakers behind proposed ad transparency legislation said the bill is designed to prevent another Russian-backed disinformation campaign that ran on Web platforms during the 2016 elestion.  Facebook said that it will take its own steps to increase the transparency of political ads and that it generally supports legislative efforts to do the same.”  I think that this is all very interesting since Facebook seemed to be the favorite vehicle for Russian-backed disinformation in the 2016 campaign.  But why should I worry.   All these Congressional leasders are servants of the American people first!

This is what was recently reported by Hamza Shaban the Washington Post: “Lawmakers behind the proposed ad transparency legislation said the bill is designed to prevent another disinformation campaign.”  Good luck with that!

Ray Myers

Social Media Becomes Hate Media

So how did all this happen?  We have gone from “fake news” to hate mongering on social media sites such as Facebook.  A student was recently stabbed to death at a bus stop on the University of Maryland campus.  I guess those Russian hackers really paved the way for co-opting our technological prowess and turning it in to a tool for disinformation and now, tragically, a tool for hate and deadly crime.  This is NOT what was supposed to happen.

This slaying sparked national outcry after police announced that they were investigating the accused murder’s connection to a Facebook page called Alt-Reich.  University of Maryland Police have said that the content from that page was full of racist and inflammatory material.  University police also said that drugs and alcohol may have played a role in the case.  What a deadly combination!

And what can the so-called president do to help social media be more social and less hateful?  One suggestion: stop tweeting about how “right” he always is, attacking any opposition on a personal (ad hominem) basis.

Ray Myers


Where in the World is Amazon’s HQ2 Going to Be?

Everyone seems very interested in this question.  As in most questions about real estate it all seems to come down to “location, location, location,” even when your business is basically online.  But in this case it is not the buyer (Amazon) who has to come up with the cold, hard cash.  It seems like other locations across the country are all in a bidding war to come up with the most attractive offer that will entice Amazon to choose their locale.  Even suburban Washington, D.C. wants Amazon to call northern Virginia their second home

The State of Virginia is weighing in to support their northern counties. The Washington Business Journal reported that the State was considering offering up to $30 million in property value to Amazon at no cost.  This property is currently occupied by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) near Washington’s Dulles Airport.  The CIT property is currently tax-exempt and assessed at a combined $29.45 million.  It includes the 173,000 square-foot CIT building, 13.5 acres of undeveloped land and is right on the edge of Amazon’s requirement of “30 miles from a population center.”  All of these transactions have apparently been done confidentially and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

So hurry up everybody if you have an interest in being Amazon’s HQ2.  I only read about northern Virginia’s interest this past weekend.  You have just ONE MORE DAY to submit your proposal for Amazon’s HQ2!

Ray Myers

High Rollin’ Online and Presidential Profits

I just made a quick visit to the Garden State (that’s New Jersey for the uninitiated) and I can happily report that the casinos and online gambling sites are alive and well.   So how come Donald Trump’s casinos and hotels have gone bankrupt and are shutting down, i.e., his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, NJ?  Maybe it was just more profitable for HIM since he has a better deal now as the president.  And he and his entire family are on the government payroll and don’t pay a nickel for anything they may need.  He just sends the bills to Uncle Sam (that’s you and me).  

FYI.  New Jersey is now joining Nevada and Delaware in an online poker pact.  Figures released last Thursday by the New Jersey Division of GamingEnforcement showed Atlantic City’s seven casinos and online gambling outlets won $235.8 million in September, an increase of 4.1 percent compared with September 2016.  That included $20.4 million last month from online gambling, up 25 percent over last year.

Maybe we will eventually see how the president is faring financially when he finally releases his tax returns, whenever or whether that will ever be?

Ray Myers


Online Dating

“Being upfront about my disability liberated me.”  In this case a young woman, Emily Ladau, who describes herself as playing the online dating game finally decided to make it clear in her online profile that she was in a wheelchair.  Ironically she was a person who was a advocate for the rights of the disabled, but in the dating world, her disability was her secret shame.  Here is how she describes the change she made on her own online world.

“So I decided it was time for a change. I started gradually, making references to my disability throughout my profile, then adding photos in which my wheelchair is clearly visible. I tried to keep things light and humorous. For instance, OKCupid asks users to list six things they can’t live without; one of mine is “the invention of the wheel.”

Still, I found myself having to make sure that potential matches had actually picked up on the trail of clues I’d left. I grew tired of feeling like I needed to deceive men into being interested because society instilled in me that my disability makes me undesirable. Finally, I took the leap I’d been so afraid to make, opening up about disability to strangers whom I hoped would appreciate my honesty and perhaps send me a message.

Prominently in my profile, I wrote: “I’d like to be very upfront about the fact that I use a wheelchair. My disability is part of my identity and I’m a loud, proud disability rights activist, but there is so much more that defines me (you know, like the stuff I’ve got in my profile). I realize some people are hesitant to date a human who experiences the world sitting down. But I’d like to think you’ll keep reading and dive a little deeper. And you’re welcome to ask questions, should you have any.”

Once I added that paragraph, I felt liberated, relieved that anyone I spoke to would have a clearer picture of me. There have been plenty of matches that haven’t worked out, and whether that’s actually because of my disability, I’ll never know. But I had a nearly yearlong relationship with a man I met through OKCupid, so I know it’s possible for lightning to strike again. My dating life remains a comedy of errors, and I still struggle every day with the feeling that my disability means I won’t find love, but at least I’m being true to myself. I’m putting myself out there — my whole self — and it feels good to be proud of who I am.”

Emily Ladau (@emily_ladau) is a disability rights activist, writer and speaker. She is editor in chief of Rooted in Rights. Her work can be found on her website, Words I Wheel By.

Ray Myers

More on Facebook and Russia

Here is some more information on the investigation into Russian influence on the U.S. presidential election last year.  As posted on Monday, Facebook has finally come to the realization (admission) that it had been duped, but had also been rewarded handsomely by the fake news vendors.

“Facebook has now disclosed that fake accounts and pages had paid the social media giant over $100,000 during the 2016 presidential election cycle. These accounts purchased 3,000 ads, largely for the purpose of spreading false information about Hillary Clinton. The ad purchasers were, as expected, Russian. Now Robert Mueller has reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the fake accounts that Facebook claims to have shut down earlier this month.

Wall Street Journal was the first to report on this issue, “Facebook Inc. has handed over to special counsel Robert Mueller detailed records about the Russian ad purchases on its platform that go beyond what the company shared with Congress last week, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, says reports that special counsel Robert Mueller got a search warrant for Facebook content could be “the biggest news” related to since the raid on Paul Manafort’s home. Knowing now that not only did Facebook comply with Mueller’s warrant, but that the company turned over more detailed information than that which they turned over to Congress is excellent news.

There are still obstinate deniers that Russia interfered with the 2016 president election, all of the intelligence to the contrary. Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Sean Spicer have done everything they can to frame this investigation as equal parts conspiracy theory fodder and media bullying. The more information Russia can get that directly supports Russian interference, whether through making deals or disseminating false information propaganda-style.

There are some who simply will not be convinced. After all, an astonishing number of Republicans still believe former president Obama was not born in the United States.”

Ray Myers

Melania Speaks Out Against Bullying – Wait, What?

Just two days ago, I commented on the bullying tactics of so-called President Trump.  He has become masterful in using social media to taunt and berate friends and foes alike.  Here is what I wrote:  “Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – ‘Crooked Hillary’ in the tweet – knocking the former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground. Eighty-four thousand people ‘liked’ this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/20/17).”

Now the so-called President’s First Lady has launched a crusade against bullying, and in particular, cyber bullying.  The first lady’s speech made no mention of her husband as she urged the world to “ensure that our children’s future is bright.”  So please help me figure this all out.  If you are a man and the so-called President, you can bully and/or cyber bully anyone you want, any time, but now Melania is telling all young boys and girls (around the world?) that they should not follow her husband’s example. She plans to follow up with social media leaders and educators on this topic.

Maybe it’s time for the Trumps to coordinate their “messaging.”  But I doubt if that is ever going to happen.  After all, he is the “Bully-in-Chief.”

Ray Myers


Abuser of Twitter and of Women Too

So I may be digressing from my usual commentary here about how technology’s advances and empowerment have made the internet a powerful tool for free expression, but Trump has also managed to make it a tool of oppression.  For example, “Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – ‘Crooked Hillary’ in the tweet – knocking the former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground.  Eighty-four thousand people ‘liked’ this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent.

A woman has been Speaker of the House (and proved substantially more effective than the two men who succeeded her), another came within a whisker of the presidency, and others (Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) wield the decisive votes on health-care and other legislation.  But recent events make it feel as if we’re in an earlier time, when a woman’s job in politics was simple: sit down and shut up.  This no doubt is the work of a president who, by word and deed, make sexism safe again, giving license to shed ‘political correctness and blame troubles on minorities, immigrants and women (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/20/17).”

Unfortunately, it looks like there will not be a second chance for Hillary, but her recent book sale numbers may portend what the future may bring.  “What Happened” is now the No. 1 best-selling book in America.

Ray Myers


Tech Devices Will Not Make Us Smarter About Climate Change

Sorry about the late posting today, but we are in the middle of a residential relocation closer to family and grandchildren.  I recommend this type of relocation highly if you are interetested in being closer to wherever those grandchildren may be.  But this post is not about the grandkids, but more about how all American citizens, young and old, should be listening to science and less to political biases about what is happening to our environment.  Here is one environmental scientist’s opinion.

“It occurs to me that all the bloviating politicians who think that scientists don’t know stuff from shoe polish about climate change or land, air and water pollution should throw out all their radios, TVs, smartphones, cars, GPS or radar-guided yachts, and lifesaving medicines.  They can’t work anyway.  These gadgets, gizmos and medicines were all conceived of, or designed by and creates by scientists.”

The climate in which we all live is changing.  We can not change it, but at least we can try to better understand why it is changing and what we can do to better reduce human misery and nature’s destructive forces.

Ray Myers