Ignored By Big Telecom, Detroit’s Marginalized Communities Are Building Their Own Internet

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

Ignored By Big Telecom, Detroit’s Marginalized Communities Are Building Their Own Internet
40 percent of Detroit residents don’t have any access to internet at all.
By Kaleigh Rogers
Nov 16 2017

Being stuck without access to the internet is often thought of as a problem only for rural America. But even in some of America’s biggest cities, a significant portion of the population can’t get online. 

Take Detroit, where 40 percent of the population has no access to the internet—of any kind, not only high speed—at home, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Seventy percent of school-aged children in the city are among those who have no internet access at home. Detroit has one of the most severe digital divides in the country, the FCC says.

“When you kind of think about all the ways the internet affects your life and how 40 percent of people in Detroit don’t have that access you can start to see how Detroit has been stuck in this economic disparity for such a long time,” Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project, told me at her office. 

Nucera is part of a growing cohort of Detroiters who have started a grassroots movement to close that gap, by building the internet themselves. It’s a coalition of community members and multiple Detroit nonprofits. They’re starting with three underserved neighborhoods, installing high speed internet that beams shared gigabit connections from an antenna on top of the tallest building on the street, and into the homes of people who have long gone without. They call it the Equitable Internet Initiative.

The issue isn’t only cost, though it is prohibitive for many Detroiters, but also infrastructure. Because of Detroit’s economic woes, many Big Telecom companies haven’t thought it worthwhile to invest in expanding their network to these communities, Nucera told me. The city is filled with dark fiber optic cable that’s not connected to any homes or businesses—relics from more optimistic days.

Residents who can’t afford internet, are on some kind of federal or city subsidy like food stamps, and students are prioritized for the Initiative, Nucera told me. The whole effort started last summer with enlisting digital stewards, locals from each neighborhood who were interested in working for the nonprofit coalition, doing everything from spreading the word, to teaching digital literacy, to installing routers and pulling fiber.

Many of these stewards started out with little or no tech expertise, but after a 20-week-long training period, they’ve become experts able to install, troubleshoot, and maintain a network from end to end. They’re also aiming to spread digital literacy, so people can truly own the network themselves.

“We want to make sure that we’re not just installing all the equipment, but also educating the community,” said Rita Ramirez, one of the stewards working on the project in Detroit’s Southwest neighborhood.



Gender and Sibling Dynamics in the Intergenerational Transmission of Entrepreneurship

[Note:  This item comes from friend Judi Clark.  DLH]

Gender and Sibling Dynamics in the Intergenerational Transmission of Entrepreneurship
By Elizabeth Mishkin
Nov 3 2017

This project uses gender and sibling dynamics to explore the intergenerational transmission of entrepreneurship.  I find that the transmission of self-employment from fathers to daughters is significantly reduced when there are sons in the family.  I interpret this as evidence that the intergenerational transmission of entrepreneurship is driven at least in part by costly investments by parents, which can be crowded out by brothers.  I investigate specific types of parental investments – transfers of money, businesses, and human capital – that potentially underlie this transmission and conclude that sons crowd out human capital acquisition by daughters.  If all daughters of self-employed men experienced the “sisters-only” level of transmission, the overall gender gap in self-employment would be reduced by nearly 20 percent.

The GOP Tax Plan Is a Declaration of War on Learning

The GOP Tax Plan Is a Declaration of War on Learning
By Jeff Bryant
Nov 15 2017

“Top-down class warfare” is what economist Paul Krugman calls the new Republican tax plans being drawn up in Congress, because both plans in the House and Senate propose “huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy” and eliminate scores of “credits and exemptions that mainly benefit the middle class.” The heaviest casualties are likely to be on the public education front.

As Krugman explains, Republicans intend to knock off many current tax deductions for higher education expenses, but the extent of the carnage in the plans will extinguish learning opportunities at every age and stage of young people’s lives.

What the Republicans propose in their tax plans is not just a raid on education-related budget items for the sake of fiscal efficiency; their plans are part of a strategic offensive against the very idea that all children and youth have a right to a free and high-quality education.

The Assault Starts Early

The assault Republicans are coordinating starts very early in children’s lives.

Federal assistance for child care, once brandished as a priority of the Trump administration, is not on the agenda. As Think Progress reports, the plan in the House rolls back some “existing child care benefits in the tax code” and fails to expand a child care tax credit.

Even though the plans are still being negotiated, there’s little doubt “a lot of families” will see their taxes increased if the Republicans become law, says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. Those increased taxes mean less money for parents to provide their children with academic and physical education opportunities outside school, including music lessons, sports, and summer camp.

The Republican tax plans also foretell funding crises down the road for federal programs that support children and families.

As economists at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explain, these schemes are part of a “two-step fiscal agenda” to cut taxes for the rich to drive up the deficit and then justify deeper funding cuts to programs in the future.

Among the “eventual victims” CBPP predicts are programs for health, tuition, and education, particularly the Head Start program providing learning opportunities for low-income four- and five-year olds. Funding already passed by Republicans provides “little or no increase” for Head Start, so as expenses increase, the lack of new tax revenues available to Head Start will necessitate further cuts and fewer children served.

K-12 Carnage

Republican tax plans will have the “biggest direct impact” on local schools through their repeal of deductions taxpayers can claim on state and local taxes (known as SALT), according to Education Week. “The House version, would allow a tax deduction for up to $10,000 of local property taxes but eliminate deductions for state and local income and sales taxes from federal tax returns. While the Senate bill repeals both property tax and income and sales tax deductions.”

Ending the SALT deduction would immediately close a spigot of federal dollars to local coffers that pay for schools, I report. But an even worse, repealing the deduction will eventually increase voter pushback against any new local tax increases for schools and put pressure on local governments to cut taxes that are vital to children’s education.

Analysts at the National Education Association calculate that repealing the SALT deduction may “put nearly 250,000 education jobs at risk.” Job cuts of this magnitude will result in fewer services for special needs kids and those who don’t speak English well, larger class sizes with less individual attention to students, and shuttered libraries, athletic programs, and courses in arts and world languages.

Another egregious detail in the House plan is to end the $250 tax deduction teachers and other educators get for spending their personal money on classroom supplies, Education Week reports.

Since 2002, educators have been able to claim the deduction even when they don’t make enough money to itemize their tax returns. Over 3.7 million tax returns claimed this deduction in the previous year available.

As I report, the $250 deduction doesn’t even begin to compensate what educators fork out from their own pockets for their kids. The most recent survey found teachers spend nearly $500 on average, and 1 in 10 spends $1,000 or more. Now they won’t even get the $250 subtraction, if the House Republicans have their way.

The original Senate bill included a rollback of the deduction too, but GOP Senators did an about-face and instead propose to double the deduction to $500, Education Week reports. The EdWeek reporter suspects the change may be an attempt to woo the support of Maine Senator Susan Collins who “helped introduce the $250 educator deduction into the tax code.”


Landmark study links Tory austerity to 120,000 deaths

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  Link to paper: <http://bmjopen.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017722> DLH]

Landmark study links Tory austerity to 120,000 deaths
Government is accused of ‘economic murder’
By Alex Matthews-King Health Correspondent
Nov 16 2017

The Conservatives have been accused of “economic murder” for austerity policies which a new study suggests have caused 120,000 deaths.

The paper found that there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years of Tory-led efficiencies than would have been expected if funding had stayed at pre-election levels.

On this trajectory that could rise to nearly 200,000 excess deaths by the end of 2020, even with the extra funding that has been earmarked for public sector services this year.

Real terms funding for health and social care fell under the Conservative-led Coalition Government in 2010, and the researchers conclude this “may have produced” the substantial increase in deaths.

The paper identified that mortality rates in the UK had declined steadily from 2001 to 2010, but this reversed sharply with the death rate growing again after austerity came in.

From this reversal the authors identified that 45,368 extra deaths occurred between 2010 and 2014, than would have been expected, although it stops short of calling them “avoidable”.

Based on those trends it predicted the next five years – from 2015 to 2020 – would account for 152,141 deaths – 100 a day – findings which one of the authors likened to “economic murder”.

The Government began relaxing austerity measures this year announcing the end of its cap on public sector pay rises and announcing an extra £1.3bn for social care in the Spring Budget.

Over three years the additional funding for social care is expected to reach £2bn, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said was “patching up a small part of the damage” wrought by £4.6bn cuts.

In pictures: Anti-austerity protest outside Downing Street

The study, published in BMJ Open today, estimated that to return death rates to their pre-2010 levels spending would need to increase by £25.3bn.

The Department of Health said “firm conclusions” cannot be drawn from this work, and independent academics warned the funding figures were “speculative”.

However local councils who have been struggling to fund care with slashed budgets urged the Government to consider the research seriously.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government must match Labour’s spending pledges in the Autumn Budget.

Per capita public health spending between 2001 and 2010 increased by 3.8 per cent a year, but in the first four years of the Coalition, increases were just 0.41 per cent, researchers from University College London found.


StratoEnergetics introduces new Slaughterbot autonomous weapon

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  Be sure to watch the eight minute sci-fi PSA video!!!  DLH]

StratoEnergetics introduces new Slaughterbot autonomous weapon
By Andrea James
Nov 15 2017

Looking like an iPhone rollout or creepy TED Talk, this sci-fi PSA from the group Stop Autonomous Weapons looks at a possible near future of autonomous drones trained to kill a specific human target.

They even set up a creepy StratoEnergetics manufacturer website:

It’s created by Stop Autonomous Weapons, a group dedicated to bringing pressure to update the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to explicity include autonomous weapons:

Representatives from more than 70 states are expected to attend the first meeting of the CCW Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems on 13-17 November 2017, as well as participants from UN agencies such as UNIDIR, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

This is not the first time that nations have discussed this topic at the CCW. In 2014-2016, the CCW held three informal meetings of experts, each approximately one week long, to discuss lethal autonomous weapons systems. At their last meeting in April 2016, states agreed for the first time on recommendations for future action, proposing the establishment of an open-ended Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to move deliberations to the next level. At the CCW’s Fifth Review Conference last December, states established the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on lethal autonomous weapons systems and scheduled for it to meet twice in 2017.


Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web: ‘The system is failing’

Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web: ‘The system is failing’
The inventor of the world wide web remains an optimist but sees a ‘nasty wind’ blowing amid concerns over advertising, net neutrality and fake news
By Olivia Solon
Nov 15 2017

Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s optimism about the future of the web is starting to wane in the face of a “nasty storm” of issues including the rollback of net neutrality protections, the proliferation of fake news, propaganda and the web’s increasing polarisation.

The inventor of the world wide web always maintained his creation was a reflection of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. But Berners-Lee’s vision for an “open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries” has been challenged by increasingly powerful digital gatekeepers whose algorithms can be weaponised by master manipulators.

“I’m still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence,” said the British computer scientist.

“We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things,” he said.

The spread of misinformation and propaganda online has exploded partly because of the way the advertising systems of large digital platforms such as Google or Facebook have been designed to hold people’s attention.

“People are being distorted by very finely trained AIs that figure out how to distract them,” said Berners-Lee.

In some cases, these platforms offer users who create content a cut of advertising revenue. The financial incentive drove Macedonian teenagers with “no political skin in the game” to generate political clickbait fake news that was distributed on Facebook and funded by revenue from Google’s automated advertising engine AdSense. 

“The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy. So I am concerned,” said Berners-Lee, who in March called for the regulation of online political advertising to prevent it from being used in “unethical ways”. 

Since then, it has been revealed that Russian operatives bought micro-targeted political ads aimed at US voters on Facebook, Google and Twitter. Data analytics firms such as Cambridge Analytica, which builds personality profiles of millions of individuals so they can be manipulated through “behavioural micro-targeting”, have also been criticised for creating “weaponised AI propaganda”. 

“We have these dark ads that target and manipulate me and then vanish because I can’t bookmark them. This is not democracy – this is putting who gets selected into the hands of the most manipulative companies out there,” said Berners-Lee. 

It is not too late to turn things around, he said, provided people challenge the status quo. 

“We are so used to these systems being manipulated that people just think that’s how the internet works. We need to think about what it should be like,” he said.

“One of the problems with climate change is getting people to realise it was anthropogenic – created by people. It’s the same problem with social networks – they are manmade. If they are not serving humanity, they can and should be changed,” he said.

Will the situation get worse before it gets better? “It already has got worse,” he said, referencing the rollback of Obama-era rules to protect net neutrality.


Lauren’s Blog: “How the Internet Broke the Planet”

[Note:  This comes from Lauren Weinstein’s NNSquad list.  DLH]

From: Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Subject: [ NNSquad ] Lauren’s Blog: “How the Internet Broke the Planet”
Date: November 15, 2017 at 8:40:46 PM PST

How the Internet Broke the Planet


I am not an optimistic person by nature. I’ve tended — pretty much
through my entire life — to always be wary of how things could go
wrong. In some ways, I’ve found this to be a useful skill — when
writing code it’s important to cover the range of possible outcomes
and error states, and properly provide for their handling in a program
or app.

Then again, I’ve never been much fun at parties. When I went to
parties. Which has been very infrequently.

Mostly, I’ve spent my adult life in front of computer screens of all
sorts (and before that, various forms of teletypes, teleprinters, and
even the occasional 029 keypunch machine).

I started writing publicly in the early 70s at the Internet’s ancestor
ARPANET site #1 at UCLA, often on the very early mailing lists like
Human-Nets, MsgGroup, or SF-Lovers (yes, and Network-Hackers, too). I
even monitored the notorious Wine-Tasters list — though not being
much of a drinker I uncharacteristically didn’t have much to say

Back then there were no domains, so originally I was LAUREN@UCLA-ATS
(the first host on ARPANET) and later LAUREN@UCLA-SECURITY as well.

Much of my writing from back then is still online or has been brought
back online. Looking it over now, I find that while there are minor
points I might change today, overall I’m still willing to stand by
everything I’ve written, even way back then.

My pessimism was already coming through in some of those early texts.
While many in the ARPANET community were convinced that The Network
would bring about the demise of nationalities and the grand rising up
of a borderless global world of peace and tranquility, I worried that
once governments and politicians really started paying attention to
what we were doing, they’d find ways to warp it to their own personal
and political advantages, perhaps using our technology for new forms
of mass censorship.

And I feared that if the kind of networking tech we had created ever
found its way into the broader world, evil would ultimately be more
effective at leveraging its power than good would be.

Years and decades went by, as I stared at a seemingly endless array of
screens and no doubt typed millions of words.

So we come to today, and I’m still sitting here in L.A. — the city
where I’ve always lived — and I see how the Internet has been
fundamentally broken by evil forces only some of which I foresaw years

Our wonderful technology has been hijacked by liars, Nazis, pedophile
and other sexual abusing politicians, and an array of other despicable
persons who could only gladden the hearts of civilization’s worst

Our work has been turned into tools for mass spying, mass censorship,
political oppression, and the spreading of hateful lies and propaganda
without end.

I have never claimed to be evenhanded or dispassionate when it came to
my contributions to — and observations of — the Internet and its
impact on the world at large.

Indeed the Net is a wonder of civilization, on par with the great
inventions like the wheel, like the printing press, like penicillin.
But much as nuclear fission can be used to kill cancer or decimate
cities, the Internet has proven to be a quintessential tool that can
be used for both good and evil, for glories of education and
communications and the availability of information, but also for the
depths of theft and extortion and hate.

The dark side seems to be winning out, so I won’t pull any punches here.

I have enormous respect for Google. I have pretty much nothing but
disdain for Facebook. My feelings about Twitter are somewhere in
between. It’s difficult these days to feel much emotion at all about
Microsoft one way or another.

None of these firms — or the other large Internet companies — are
all good or all bad. But it doesn’t take rocket science (or computer
science for that matter) to perceive how Google is about making honest
information available, Facebook is about controlling information and
exploiting users, and Twitter doesn’t seem to really care anymore one
way or another, so long as they can keep their wheels turning.

This is obviously something of an oversimplification. Perhaps you
disagree with me — sometimes, now, or always — and of course that’s
OK too.

But I do want you to know that I’ve always strived to offer my honest
views, and to never arbitrarily nor irrationally take sides on an
issue. If the result has been that at one time or another pretty much
everyone has disagreed with something I’ve said — so be it. I make no
apologies for the opinions that I’ve expressed, and I’ve expected no
apologies in return.

In the scheme of things, the Internet is still a child, with a
lifetime to date even shorter than that of we frail individual human

The future will with time reveal whether our work in this sphere is
seen as a blessing or curse — or most likely as some complex brew of
both — by generations yet to come. Some of you will see that future
for yourselves, many of us will not.

Such is the way of the world — not only when it comes to technology,
but in terms of virtually all human endeavors.

Take care, all.

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): https://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Lauren’s Blog: https://lauren.vortex.com
Google Issues Mailing List: https://vortex.com/google-issues
Founder: Network Neutrality Squad: https://www.nnsquad.org 
PRIVACY Forum: https://www.vortex.com/privacy-info
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: https://www.pfir.org/pfir-info
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Google+: https://google.com/+LaurenWeinstein
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800