Hobby Lobby Grows

Hobby Lobby Grows
Hobby Lobby’s Effects Are Being Felt Beyond Birth Control
Sep 23 2014

It’s been almost three months since the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that for-profit, secular businesses who have religious objections to birth control may defy federal rules requiring that they include contraceptive care in their employees’ health plans because it violates the employer’s religious liberty rights.

The ripple effect of the Hobby Lobby decision could lead to a cascade of poor outcomes for the nation. And now, the repercussions of that decision are starting to come out — including the potential for it to be broadened even farther and threaten the rights of even more people, including children. 

First: A federal judge in Utah cited the Hobby Lobby decision to say that a member of a polygamous religious sect could refuse to testify in a federal investigation into alleged violations of child labor laws because he objects to testifying on religious grounds. The case involves the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), which broke off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the domination commonly known as Mormons — due to a century-old dispute over polygamy. (The sect’s leader is currently in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting two underage girls — the youngest of whom was 12 years-old — that he claimed have taken as wives.) Before Hobby Lobby, it’s unlikely that the claim would prevail. Although federal law offers fairly robust protections for religious liberty, this law only applies when the federal government “substantially burden[s] a person’s exercise of religion.” Hobby Lobby, however, largely wrote the word “substantially” out of this law.

Second: Religious conservatives are admitting what they really want out of Hobby Lobby, which is to push the decision even further and restrict birth control access even more. Last month, the Obama administration announced an accommodation for employers with religious objections: they can exempt themselves completely from the federal rule requiring employer-provided health plans to cover birth control, so long as they inform the government that they seek a religious exemption and tells them which company administers their health plan. But now, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — the same Becket Fund that represented Hobby Lobby in its successful lawsuit in the Supreme Court — has filed a court document on behalf of Ave Maria University, saying that even that degree of accommodation is insufficient. Ava Maria doesn’t even think they should be required to let the government know that they are not providing their employees birth control at all. If the justices honor Ave Maria’s idiosyncratic objection, then it is unclear that the Obama administration could design any accommodation that will survive the Supreme Court.


‘Person of Interest’ Season 4 Will Tackle Big Questions About Artificial Intelligence

‘Person of Interest’ Season 4 Will Tackle Big Questions About Artificial Intelligence
Sep 23 2014

For three seasons, CBS’s Person of Interest has tried to raise questions about who’s watching us. But starting Tuesday, the show will shine a light on a subject producers think no one is keeping an eye on quite enough: artificial intelligence. 

“Since the show initially premiered [in 2011], we used to get a lot of questions about [surveillance] and whether it was a real thing or not, and I think what initially seemed like a science fiction concept became factual and something people know is pervasive,” said executive producer Greg Plageman, referring largely to the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks. 

“Now that everyone understands that, we said, ‘What’s the next thing coming along that’s interesting, the next big thing happening and a little bit under the table now but clearly imminent?’ And that is artificial intelligence.” 

The subject has always been of interest to creator Jonathan Nolan, but in plotting Season 4, which debuts Tuesday night, it was hard to ignore the flurry of activity in the AI community, particularly Google’s January acquisition of Deep Mind, the company’s addition of leading AI researcher Ray Kurzweil, and Facebook’s interest in the realm.

“So much of it is happening right now at such a rapid pace but its away from any public scrutiny, and we think that’s extremely interesting,” says Plageman. 

In his view, he adds, the last comparable example of potentially world-changing research was the Manhattan Project. “The interesting thing about artificial intelligence is that it can be just as groundbreaking and just as big of a danger,” he says. 

How, exactly? Plageman points to ideas he first read in James Barrat’s Our Final Invention, a book that laid out how, if not approached carefully, AI could be the end of the human era. “The point he brings up is, essentially, what [an artificially intelligent entity's] drives are programmed to do is essentially what it’s going to do. It’s not out to get us, but maybe we could become collateral damage in what its ultimate goal is,” he says. 

“So we create an artificial general intelligence initially, but the question is how quickly we move from an AGI to a ASI [artificial superintelligence].”


Net neutrality fight sets stage for telecom law update

Net neutrality fight sets stage for telecom law update
By Josh Peterson, Watchdog.org

Federal lawmakers already are beginning to look beyond the 2014 midterm elections, and the fight to turn the Internet into a public utility could be setting the stage for a revamp of telecommunication law in the new Congress.

Talk of modernizing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, or ’96 Act, was on the lips of more than one lawmaker last week during the flurry of the net neutrality discussions, which has both sides of the debate threatening higher consumer costs and stifled innovation if their way is not implemented.


AT&T and Verizon defend data caps on home Internet service

AT&T and Verizon defend data caps on home Internet service
Telcos clash with Netflix on including data caps in US definition of broadband. 
By Jon Brodkin
Sep 23 2014

AT&T and Verizon have been fighting to preserve 4Mbps as the nation’s definition of “broadband,” saying the Federal Communications Commission should abandon plans to raise the minimum to 10Mbps.

The companies also argue now that the FCC should not consider data caps when deciding whether an Internet service qualifies as broadband. 

Verizon does not impose any caps on its home Internet service. AT&T advertises 150GB and 250GB monthly limits with financial penalties when consumers use more than that. While AT&T sends notices to customers about heavy usage, it generally hasn’t enforced the financial penalties.

Still, the companies want the ability to charge heavy broadband users extra in the future, just as they do today with their cellular offerings. In filings with the FCC posted on the commission’s website yesterday, AT&T and Verizon object to proposals by Netflix and others that would include data caps in the FCC’s definition of broadband. The definition affects the FCC’s analysis of nationwide broadband deployment, and companies that accept Universal Service funds when building networks in rural areas must match the standard.

“Despite Netflix’s assertion that data usage thresholds should be accounted for in the Commission’s deployment benchmarks, the Commission should not utilize pricing plans in its determination of whether advanced capabilities have been deployed to all Americans,” AT&T wrote. “As an initial matter, AT&T is not aware of tiered data plans that actually limit the amount of data a customer can use. Rather, to the extent providers use tiered data plans, those plans attach different prices to different buckets of data and require that customers who exceed the allowance associated with their chosen plan to pay for their additional usage. In this respect, tiered data plans are no different from any other pricing model that relates charges to usage.”

The FCC’s proposal to raise the minimum broadband definition asked the public to comment on whether the FCC should also “consider latency and data usage allowances as additional core characteristics of advanced telecommunications capability.”

In response, Netflix argued that the commission’s “revised benchmark also should account for data caps and other terms of service that may restrict broadband use even when a broadband connection is technically capable of achieving minimum threshold speeds.” Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge made similar arguments.

“Public Knowledge—whose agenda here and in other proceedings to impose heavy regulation on broadband depends on proving market failures—argues that usage-based billing may create disincentives for consumers to use broadband and for providers to invest in broadband networks, and may undermine broadband competition,” Verizon wrote.


Second Curve Speaker Series announcement

[Note:  This item comes from friend Mike Liebhold.  DLH]

From: Mike Liebhold <mliebhold@iftf.org>
Subject: Second Curve Speaker Series announcement:
Date: September 4, 2014 at 9:57:00 EDT
To: Dewayne Hendricks <dewayne@warpspeed.com>

Dear Dewayne

Please share as you see fit.

The Institute for the Future announces the Second Curve Internet Speaker Series:

The Internet we know today is only one possible interpretation of the original vision of an open, peer-to-peer network. Think of it as a first-generation Internet, built on a fragile global network of vulnerable codes subject to abuse and event collapse. This Internet is failing from too close an encounter with a triple shock: a massive economy built on mining terabytes of personal data, ubiquitous criminal penetration of financial and identity networks (both on our devices and in the cloud), and pervasive state intruders at all levels and at every encrypted hardware and software node. Today we also see efforts to address the Internet’s vulnerabilities. But these are just the first steps toward a resilient Second Curve Internet. We must learn to build a more reliable private and secure Internet for communications, creation, and commerce. 

In this speaker series, we’ll explore the critical elements necessary to reinvent the Internet, gathering leading minds together with IFTF’s deep experience thinking about technology and the ways of communicating, coordinating, and organizing in the changing world around us. – See more at: 

Please Join us for our inaugural event featuring Cory Doctorow!

We’re honored to feature the visionary Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) as our first speaker in the series. Cory is a science fiction author, activist, journalist, and blogger. 

“The Internet’s broken and that’s bad news, because everything we do today involves the Internet and everything we’ll do tomorrow will require it. But governments and corporations see the net, variously, as a perfect surveillance tool, a perfect pornography distribution tool, or a perfect video on demand tool—not as the nervous system of the 21st century. Time’s running out. Architecture is politics. The changes we’re making to the net today will prefigure the future our children and their children will thrive in—or suffer under.”

—Cory Doctorow

- See more at: <http://www.iftf.org/our-work/global-landscape/ten-year-forecast/reinventthenet/second-curve-internet-series-redesigns-for-a-broken-internet/#sthash.j0A11pM2.dpuf>

Michael Liebhold
Senior Researcher, Distinguished Fellow
Institute for the Future
@mikeliebhold  @iftf

After UN Speech, Emma Watson Hit With Nude Photo Release Threat

After UN Speech, Emma Watson Hit With Nude Photo Release Threat
Sep 23 2014

Just when you thought 4Chan had grown up, one of its members pulls a stunt like this. 

Emma Watson’s well-received speech at the UN calling for gender equality around the world may not seem controversial to most viewers. But it apparently was for many users on the anarchic, fast-deleted website that first hosted the nude photos stolen from the iCloud accounts of famous actors, all of whom happened to be women. 

On the 4Chan board /b, where jaded male users try to get a rise with shocking pictures and statements, Watson was the target of a stream of vilification and threats, according to Death and Taxes, which preserved some of the messages. 

“She makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online,” one anonymous member wrote.

Shortly afterwards, a website called Emmayouarenext.com sprung up via the site. It features Watson’s face, the 4Chan logo, and a countdown clock that’s counting down from 5 days to the supposed release of Watson’s photos. 

As many observers have speculated, 5 days would give 4Chan users ample time to Photoshop vaguely realistic fake photos featuring Watson. 

There’s precious little information on who is behind the website; the who.is domain information only says it was registered on Sunday Sep. 21 via anonymous domain registry eNom.

The 4Chan-based perpetrator of the previous celebrity photo hack is currently being sought by the FBI.

‘Feminists Are Not Man-Haters': Emma Watson’s Moving UN Speech

‘Feminists Are Not Man-Haters': Emma Watson’s Moving UN Speech
Sep 22 2014

Actress Emma Watson has made a powerful speech for the United Nations on gender, which has sent waves across the world.

The 24-year-old “Harry Potter girl” and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador launched HeForShe Campaign, a U.N. Movement for Gender Equality, on Saturday in New York.

It was hoped her magic wand could be used to stop violence against women and help fight the fight for gender equality, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said when he introduced the star.

In her speech, which starts at 31:10 in the video above, Watson detailed her foray into the world of feminism when she was labeled “bossy” at eight years old, sexualized by the press at 14 and watched her friends drop out of sports at 15.

“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me … Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and unattractive,” she said.

The British star said the association between feminism and man-hating had to end or equality would remain a far-off dream.

“I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights,” Watson said.

“No country in the world can yet say they have achieved gender equality.”