Whoa! Meet the future phones that fold up, have 9 cameras and charge over thin air.

[Note:  This item comes from friend Geoff Goodfellow.  DLH]

Whoa! Meet the future phones that fold up, have 9 cameras and charge over thin air.
Lately, our smartphones all look alike. So our tech columnist hunted in labs, start-ups and China’s thriving phone scene to find what’s next for our favorite gadget.
By Geoffrey A. Fowler
Jun 29 2018

Your next smartphone might just throw you a curve.

Picture this: You pull your phone out of your pocket and unfold it like a napkin into a tablet. You press your finger on the screen, and it unlocks. You switch to the camera app, and a spider-like array of lenses shoot simultaneously to capture one giant photo.

These are all things I’ve seen phones do — some in prototype form, others in models you can get only in China. Analysts in Korea say we might see a folding “Galaxy X” phone from Samsung as soon as next year. When I look into my crystal ball, I’m convinced we’re on the cusp of the most significant changes to the design and functionality of smartphones since they first arrived.

The shake-up couldn’t come soon enough. You probably couldn’t live without your phone but feel as excited about it as you do running water. And the water company doesn’t hold an event every year to hype slimmer faucets. From the front, the iPhone 8 is pretty much indistinguishable from the iPhone 6 that came out nearly four years ago. Americans are holding onto old phones longer than ever — 25.8 months, according the most recent research from Kantar Worldpanel.

The tech industry has been doubling down on software and artificial intelligence capabilities, which still hold huge potential. But there’s a lot to be done on improving phone hardware, too, the number one reason most people upgrade.

Longtime tech analyst and futurist Tim Bajarin, of Creative Strategies, tells me he’s also excited by what he sees coming. “When we turn the corner on the next decade, that is when we will start to see a revolution in everything from flexible displays to glasses,” he says.

So I went on a hunt for new technologies in China (where phonemakers are more creative), among start-ups and at industry conferences where the likes of Samsung and Apple find new components. Of course, it’s hard to predict what ideas will stick and what will end up being a gimmick. I looked for ideas that could make phones simpler to use, easier to carry and better for watching video and doing work. And, of course, I looked for anything that might make batteries last long enough to bring an end to the contact sport of hunting for an airport outlet.

Here are five ideas that will, at the very least, make your next phone interesting. Or if not your very next phone, then the one after that.

Fingerprint scanners go inside

The big idea: You can have it all: a phone that’s entirely screen on front and a fingerprint scanner still right where it belongs. When full-screen phones came into fashion, some Android phones moved this key function to the back. Apple killed the home button entirely with its full-screen iPhone X, opting for face-scanning sensors that some (including yours truly) find fail just enough to be annoying.

Recent breakthroughs let phonemakers embed the fingerprint reader inside the screen. Just press your finger over the right area of the screen — indicated by a thumbprint image — and the phone unlocks. Component maker Synaptics figured out how to take a picture of fingers by looking in between the phone’s pixels; Qualcomm created an ultrasonic sensor capable of scanning not only though screens but also metal … and even underwater. So far, the tech has made its way into phones from Chinese makers Vivo and Xiaomi.


How Atul Gawande landed perhaps the most extraordinary (or impossible) job in health care

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

How Atul Gawande landed perhaps the most extraordinary (or impossible) job in health care
Jun 25 2018

ASPEN, Colo. — It’s hard to imagine having to endure a more exacting executive search committee than the triad of corporate chieftains atop Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway.

But Dr. Atul Gawande’s selection last week by Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, and Warren Buffett to run a venture with the extraordinary yet seemingly futile goal of disrupting the health care industry didn’t stem from any longstanding relationship he had with any of them. Its genesis was an article he wrote for the New Yorker nine years ago.

“That opened the door,” Gawande told STAT, providing the first explanation of how his selection came about.

Gawande, 52, the celebrated surgeon, author, and journalist, said the closest he had come to knowing Amazon’s Bezos was a fleeting hello at a TED Talk. “But I had really never met Jeff Bezos. And I didn’t know Jamie Dimon in the least.” He did catch the eye of Berkshire Hathaway’s Buffett years ago, or, rather, Buffett’s longtime right-hand man, Charlie Munger, also a businessman and entrepreneur.

In a brief interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health program — in which he also said the new job would have to be his top priority —  Gawande said he had known Munger ever since he wrote a much acclaimed article in 2009 for the New Yorker, “The Cost Conundrum.”

The piece examined why health care was vastly more expensive in some parts of the U.S. than others, despite little difference in the quality of health care and the sickness of people getting it. The piece was reported from McAllen, Texas, then the most expensive health care market in the country.

“Charlie Munger I’ve known since he told me he loved, he liked, the article I wrote,” Gawande said. He then recalled the story, well-publicized at the time, of how Munger thought the article was so socially important that he blindly mailed Gawande a $20,000 check.

Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said at first he sent the money back: “He sent it back to me again and said, ‘Do with it what you want.’ And so I put it into our research fund.”

Though Gawande said the Munger relationship had paved the way for his selection as CEO of the new health care company, he went on to say of Buffett, Dimon, and Bezos, “I think each of them heard about me in different ways.”

Buffett spoke publicly about Gawande long before they met. In a CNBC interview in 2010, Buffett praised the “The Cost Conundrum,” saying, “That fellow whose written on health care recently in the New Yorker — Gawande — he had an article last summer that was absolutely magnificent.”

In some ways, the McAllen article could be seen as laying out some of the challenges the new enterprise will face as it seeks to reduce health care costs. In announcing the venture in January, Dimon said, “Our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans.”

Gawande told STAT that he was first approached for his advice in January. He said he did not know when the dialogue evolved from his offering his thoughts to being a prospect for the job.

“I started talking with them,” he said, “but they ended up talking to over 100 people for advice, so I don’t think I exactly know.”

Gawande has offered scant details about the yet-to-be-named organization (he jokingly referred to it as AJB after its corporate owners), though he said it is meant to come up with ways to reduce health care costs for the companies’ employees, as well solutions that could be applied across the entire country.

He said the intermediary who first contacted him was Todd Combs, an investment manager at Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha who was the emissary who quietly put the three billionaires together in the first place. Combs was said to have so impressed Dimon that he was named to the board of JPMorgan Chase.

No matter how efficient Gawande is with his time, his CEO role will test even his ability to multitask. Asked how much time he would devote to it when he officially begins July 9, Gawande said, “It’ll have to be 100 percent.”

But he is not giving up his positions at Harvard or Brigham and Women’s or his work as a surgeon, and plans to continue writing. He said he will transition from being executive director to chairman of Ariadne Labs in Boston, which works on solving problems in health systems around the world.

“I still have my patients and surgery booked through the summer and have my work,” he said.

Asked if most of his time will be spent in the new role, he said, “This is going to become the number one priority.”


Why Are So Many Political Parties Blowing Up? (Part 1)

Why Are So Many Political Parties Blowing Up? (Part 1)
By Thomas L. Friedman
Jun 26 2018’

If you haven’t already noticed, let me be the first on your block to point it out: The big mainstream political parties across the industrialized world are all blowing up at once. It’s quite extraordinary.

The U.S. Republican Party has blown up in all but name, going overnight from an internationalist, free-trade, deficit-hawk party to a protectionist, anti-immigrant, deficit-dove party — all to accommodate the instincts of Donald Trump and his base.

As the former House Speaker John Boehner noted: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.” Actually, it’s dead, but it’s not alone in the cemetery.

Italy’s last election ended with its mainstream center-left getting crushed, bringing to power instead a coalition of far-left, far-right populists, whose focus ranges from guaranteeing minimum income for Italy’s 11 percent unemployed to rebuffing immigrants and the European Union.

Britain’s Labour Party has gone from center-left to quasi-Marxist. And the Brexit-loving Tories, having pushed Britain to exit the E.U. without any plan, are now divided and paralyzed over how to implement the economic suicide they’ve promised voters.

The U.S. Democrats are fractured between a Bernie Sanders quasi-socialist wing and a center-left wing, but are glued together for now — thank goodness — by the overriding need to defeat Trump. German Chancellor Angela Merkel took four months to form a barely coherent governing coalition, after her ruling party got hammered in the last election — and that fragile coalition may soon implode over immigration tensions. And French President Emmanuel Macron leads a centrist party that did not exist three years ago.

As Quartz noted, the French Socialist Party “went from running the country to receiving just 6 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections last year.” In the Netherlands, the Labor Party has been decimated, going from 25 percent of the vote in 2012, and governing in a coalition, to just 6 percent in last year’s general election.

What’s going on? My short answer: climate change — but not just the one you think. We’re actually going through three climate changes at once, and together they are reshaping the ecosystems of work, learning, geopolitics, ethics and community in ways that parties built on our old left-right binary choices can no longer easily contain.

How so? We’re going through a change in the climate of the climate: We’re going from later to now. When I was growing up in Minnesota, later was when I could clean that lake, save that forest or rescue that endangered owl. Today later is officially over. Later will now be too late, so whatever you’re going to save, save it now. That’s a climate change.

We’re going through a change in the climate of globalization: We’re going from an interconnected world to an interdependent world. In an interdependent world your friends can kill you faster than your enemies. If banks in Greece or Italy — both NATO allies — go under tonight, your retirement fund will feel it. And in an interdependent world, your rivals falling becomes more dangerous than your rivals rising. If China takes six more islands in the South China Sea tonight, you won’t lose sleep; if China loses 6 percent growth tonight, you could lose your job.

Lastly, we’re going through a change in the climate of technology. Machines are acquiring most of the unique attributes of humans — particularly the ability to learn, analyze, reason, maneuver and drive on their own.

From 1960 to 2000, Quartz reported, U.S. manufacturing employment stayed roughly steady at around 17.5 million jobs. But between 2000 and 2010, thanks largely to digitization and automation, “manufacturing employment plummeted by more than a third,” which was “worse than any decade in U.S. manufacturing history.” And we’ve digitized only about 20 percent of the economy, meaning there’s tremendous technological climate change yet ahead.

These climate changes are reshaping the ecosystem of work — wiping out huge numbers of middle-skilled jobs — and this is reshaping the ecosystem of learning, making lifelong learning the new baseline for advancement.

These three climate changes are also reshaping geopolitics. They are like a hurricane that is blowing apart weak nations that were O.K. in the Cold War — when superpowers would shower them with foreign aid and arms, when China could not compete with them for low-skilled work and when climate change, deforestation and population explosions had not wiped out vast amounts of their small-scale agriculture.


Trump’s Potemkin Economy

[Note:  This item comes from friend Ed DeWath.  DLH]

Trump’s Potemkin Economy
By Paul Krugman
Jun 30 2018

According to legend, Grigory Potemkin, one of Catherine the Great’s ministers (and her lover), created a false impression of prosperity when the empress toured Ukraine. He supposedly did this by setting up fake villages, or possibly just facades, along her route, then dismantling them after she passed, and setting them up again further down the road.

There probably isn’t much if any truth to the story – among other things, Catherine was too smart and tough-minded to be that easily deceived — but never mind: the legend has become a byword for the general idea of prettifying reality to please a tyrannical ruler. And it seems highly relevant to some of the economic “news” coming out of the Trump administration the past few days.

Just to be clear, the U.S. economy is still doing quite well overall, continuing the long expansion that began during Obama’s first term. Those of us who thought the economy would be hurt by political uncertainty have been wrong so far.

But Trump’s actual policy initiatives aren’t doing so well. His tax cut isn’t producing the promised surge in business investment, let alone the promised wage gains; all it has really done is lead to a lot of stock buybacks. Reflecting this reality, the tax cut is becoming less popular over time.

And the early phase of the trade war that was supposed to be “good, and easy to win” isn’t generating the kinds of headlines Trump wanted. Instead, we’re hearing about production shifting overseas to escape both U.S. tariffs on imported inputs and foreign retaliation against U.S. products. It’s really worth reading the submission by General Motors to the Commerce Department, urging a reconsideration of a tariff policy that “risks undermining GM’s competitiveness against foreign auto producers” and “will be detrimental to the future industrial strength and readiness of manufacturing operations in the United States.” In other words, “Don’t you understand global supply chains, you idiot?”

Actually, I’m waiting to hear that GM is really a Democratic company in league with the deep state.

But meanwhile, how is the administration responding? By making stuff up.

Now, making stuff up is actually standard operating procedure for these guys. We’re talking about an administration that’s taking children away from their parents and putting them in cages in response to a wave of violent immigrant crime that doesn’t, you know, actually exist. Trade policy itself is being driven by claims about the massive tariffs U.S. products face from, say, the European Union – tariffs that, like the immigrant crime wave, don’t actually exist.

But these are negative fictions, tales of wrongdoing by others. When it comes to Trump’s own economic policies, by contrast, it’s all puppies and rainbows – happy stories with no basis in reality.

Some of these come from Trump himself. For example, he declared that the head of U.S. Steel called him to say that the company was opening six new plants. It isn’t, and as far as we can tell the phone call never happened.

Meanwhile, reports say that the Council of Economic Advisers did an internal report concluding that Trump trade policy will cost jobs, not create them; Kevin Hassett, the chairman, pressed on these reports, said that he could neither confirm nor deny them; in other words, they’re true. But meanwhile Hassett is declaring that last year’s corporate tax cut has led to a “massive amount of activity coming home” – which is just false. Some companies are rearranging their accounting, producing what looks on paper like money coming back to the U.S., but this has no real effect on investment or employment.

But the most Potemkinesque story of the past week was the declaration by Larry Kudlow, the administration’s top economic official, that the budget deficit is “coming down rapidly” as “those revenues come rolling in.”


How to get away with financial fraud

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

How to get away with financial fraud
Some of the world’s biggest scandals have gone unspotted for years. The nature of fraud is that it works outside our field of vision.
By Dan Davies
Jun 28 2018

‘Guys, you’ve got to hear this,” I said. I was sitting in front of my computer one day in July 2012, with one eye on a screen of share prices and the other on a live stream of the House of Commons Treasury select committee hearings. As the Barclays share price took a graceful swan dive, I pulled my headphones out of the socket and turned up the volume so everyone could hear. My colleagues left their terminals and came around to watch BBC Parliament with me.

It didn’t take long to realise what was happening. “Bob’s getting murdered,” someone said.

Bob Diamond, the swashbuckling chief executive of Barclays, had been called before the committee to explain exactly what his bank had been playing at in regards to the Libor rate-fixing scandal. The day before his appearance, he had made things very much worse by seeming to accuse the deputy governor of the Bank of England of ordering him to fiddle an important benchmark, then walking back the accusation as soon as it was challenged. He was trying to turn on his legendary charm in front of a committee of angry MPs, and it wasn’t working. On our trading floor, in Mayfair, calls were coming in from all over the City. Investors needed to know what was happening and whether the damage was reparable.

A couple of weeks later, the damage was done. The money was gone, Diamond was out of a job and the market, as it always does, had moved on. We were left asking ourselves: How did we get it so wrong?

At the time I was working for a French stockbroking firm, on the team responsible for the banking sector. I was the team’s regulation specialist. I had been aware of “the Libor affair”, and had written about it on several occasions during the previous months. My colleagues and I had assumed that it would be the typical kind of regulatory risk for the banks – a slap on the wrist, a few hundred million dollars of fines, no more than that.

The first puzzle was that, to start with, it looked like we were right. By the time it caught the attention of the mainstream media, the Libor scandal had reached what would usually be the end of the story – the announcement, on 27 June 2012, of a regulatory sanction. Barclays had admitted a set of facts, made undertakings not to do anything similar again, and agreed to pay fines of £59.5m to the UK’s Financial Services Authority, $200m to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a further $160m to the US Department of Justice. That’s how these things are usually dealt with. If anything, it was considered quite a tough penalty.

But the Libor case marked the beginning of a new process for the regulators. As well as publishing their judgment, they gave a long summary of the evidence and reasoning that led to their decision. In the case of the Libor fines, the majority of that evidence took the form of transcripts of emails and Bloomberg chat. Bloomberg’s trading terminals – the $50,000-a-year news and financial-data servers that every trader uses – have an instant-messaging function in addition to supplying prices and transmitting news. Financial market professionals are vastly more addicted to this chat than tween girls are to Instagram, and many of them failed to realise that if you discussed illegal activity on this medium, you were making things easy for the authorities.

The transcripts left no room for doubt.

Trader C: “The big day [has] arrived … My NYK are screaming at me about an unchanged 3m libor. As always, any help wd be greatly appreciated. What do you think you’ll go for 3m?”

Submitter: “I am going 90 altho 91 is what I should be posting.”

Trader C: “[…] when I retire and write a book about this business your name will be written in golden letters […]”.

Submitter: “I would prefer this [to] not be in any book!”

Perhaps it’s unfair to judge the Libor conspirators on their chat records; few of the journalists who covered the story would like to see their own Twitter direct-message history paraded in front of an angry public. Trading, for all its bluster, is basically a service industry, and there is no service industry anywhere in the world whose employees don’t blow off steam by acting out or insulting the customers behind their backs. But traders tend to have more than the usual level of self-confidence, bordering on arrogance. And in a general climate in which the public was both unhappy with the banking industry and unimpressed with casual banter about ostentatious displays of wealth, the Libor transcripts appeared crass beyond belief. Every single popular stereotype about traders was confirmed. An abstruse and technical set of regulatory breaches suddenly became a morality play, a story of swaggering villains who fixed the market as if it was a horse race. The politicians could hardly have failed to get involved.


Competition, Civil Liberties, and the Internet Giants

Competition, Civil Liberties, and the Internet Giants
Jun 27 2018

The power of the Internet historically arose from its edges: innovation, growth, and freedom came from its users and their contributions, rather than from some centrally controlled core of overseers. But today, for an increasing number of users, there is a powerful center to the net—and a potentially uncompetitive and unrepresentative center at that.

The whole Internet itself is still vast and complex, enabling billions of users to communicate regardless of their physical location. Billions of websites, apps, and nearly costless communications channels remain open to all. Yet too many widely relied-upon functions are now controlled by a few giant companies. Worse, unlike previous technology cycles, the dominance of these companies has proven to be sticky. It’s still easy and cheap to put up a website, build an app, or organize a group of people online—but a few large corporations dominate the key resources needed to do those things. That, in turn, gives those companies extraordinary power over speech, privacy, and innovation.

Some Specifics

Google and Facebook dominate the tools of information discovery and the advertising networks that track users’ every move across much of the Western world. Along with Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, and a few similar companies, they moderate an enormous volume of human communication. This gives them extraordinary power to censor and to surveil.

Amazon dominates online retail in the United States and back-end hosting across much of the globe, making it a chokepoint for a broad range of other services and activities. A few credit card networks process most online payments, giving them the power to starve any organization that relies on sales or donations. Even more fundamentally, most people in the U.S. have little or no ability to choose which company will connect them to the Internet in the first place. That gives a few broadband ISPs the power to block, throttle, and discriminate against Internet users.

Civil Liberties at Stake

A lack of competition and choice impacts nearly every facet of Internet users’ civil liberties. When so much of our interaction with friends, family, and broader social circles happens on Facebook, its arrangement and takedowns of content matter. When so much search happens on Google, and so much video discovery on YouTube, their rankings of results and recommendations matter. When Google, Facebook, and Amazon amass a huge trove of people’s communications as well as data about purchases, physical movements, and Internet use, their privacy policies and practices matter. When Comcast and AT&T are the only options for fixed broadband Internet access for millions of people, their decisions to block, throttle or prioritize certain traffic matter.

The influence of these companies is so great that their choices can impact our lives as much as any government’s. And as Amazon’s recent sale of facial recognition technology to local police demonstrates, the distance between the big tech companies and government is shrinking.

Diverse Voices Need Diverse Options

Careful action to bring a variety of options back in these important portions of the Internet could re-empower users. Competition—combined with and fostered by meaningful interoperability and data portability—could let users vote with their feet by leaving a platform or service that isn’t working for them and taking their data and connections to one that does. That would encourage companies to work to keep their users rather than hold them hostage.

More competition can also strengthen civil liberties. Innovators could develop alternative apps and platforms that safeguard their users’ speech, protect their privacy, foster community, and promote constructive debate, confident that those tools will have a level playing field to reach potential users. And those alternatives don’t have to be commercial: decentralized, federated, or other co-operative solutions can put power back into the hands of their users, giving them the ability to change and adapt tools.

Increasing competition by itself won’t fix all of these problems. But it’s one of the few strategies that, if handled correctly by courts and policymakers, has the promise of opening up space for innovation from the bottom up, driven by individuals, small businesses, and communities with great ideas.

The good news is some competition does exist. We have surveillance-free search by companies like DuckDuckGo and Qwant, open source social media tools like Mastodon and Secure Scuttlebutt, independent services like Snapchat and Yelp, and competitive ISPs like Sonic, just to name a few. But many of these are under threat from the giants, and many, many more options are needed.


The Supreme Court’s Term Just Ended. Here’s How Civil Liberties and Rights Fared.

The Supreme Court’s Term Just Ended. Here’s How Civil Liberties and Rights Fared.
The Supreme Court’s 2017 term saw a decisive conservative shift on the bench in large part to Justice Kennedy’s swing vote.
By David Cole
Jun 28 2018

On Wednesday afternoon, the Supreme Court’s 2017 term came to an end along with the tenure of one of the nation’s most consequential jurists — Anthony M. Kennedy. The 2017 term saw a decisive conservative shift on the bench, in large part because Justice Kennedy, often a swing vote, joined the conservatives in all 14 of the Court’s 5–4 decisions. The court decided a range of historic cases that significantly expanded as well as contracted our fundamental freedoms. Of the 72 cases heard by the justices, the American Civil Liberties Union was involved in 17, directly arguing four.

Here are five of the most significant decisions, along with the role we played, the outcomes, and what it means for Americans’ civil liberties and civil rights.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

ACLU Role: Counsel
Result: Partial Loss, 7–2

What It Means: Equality may have lost this battle, but it won the war. The court ruled in favor of a bakery that refused to sell Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig a cake for their wedding reception because they are a same-sex couple. But it did so solely because it concluded that the state civil rights commission that adjudicated the case was infected by religious bias. It declined to hand the bakery the First Amendment right to discriminate that he — and the Trump administration — sought. And the Court went out of its way to reaffirm that philosophical and religious objections do not provide a justification for a business to violate a neutral nondiscrimination law.

The bakery, backed by the Trump administration, had claimed that freedom of religion or freedom of speech should give it a blank check to violate Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act and turn away same-sex couples. The court didn’t accept that unprecedented theory. While it expressed concerns about the way one state’s civil rights commission handled this particular case, it reaffirmed that civil rights commissions across the country can continue to enforce our nation’s laws against discrimination, including discrimination against people who are LGBT. And that’s something to celebrate.

Carpenter v. U.S.

ACLU Role: Counsel
Result: Win, 5–4

What It Means: In a groundbreaking expansion of privacy rights in the digital age, the court held that police need a search warrant to obtain a person’s historical cell phone location data from their cellular service provider. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, recognized that the comprehensive record of our locations and movements generated whenever we carry a cell phone is highly sensitive and private. His majority opinion rejected the government’s sweeping argument that a person’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights are eliminated any time their sensitive information is shared with or held by another party, such as the phone company or an internet service provider. Because we necessarily share everything we do online or on a cell phone with some third-party company, the government’s argument — which had consistently prevailed in the lower courts — would have marked the end of privacy in the digital age.

Although the case is most directly about recognizing the serious privacy implications of law enforcement access to people’s location data, it has opened space for future cases to protect many other kinds of highly private digital-age data. These include the contents of our emails and search query histories held by Google or Microsoft, the data about our health or news reading habits generated by apps on our phones, and the information about our bodies and homes created by internet-connected “smart” devices.

Jennings v. Rodriguez

ACLU Role: Counsel
Result: Loss in part, 5–3

What It Means: This case involved a challenge to the immigration service’s practice of prolonged mandatory detention without a hearing of many foreign nationals seeking asylum or other relief from deportation. The Supreme Court overturned a ruling that required the federal government to give immigrants an opportunity to ask a judge for release on bond when they had been in immigration detention for more than six months and their deportation cases remained on-going. Two lower courts had interpreted federal immigration detention statutes to require hearings after six months of detention, while four others had interpreted the laws to require hearings after a “reasonable time.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito found that the immigration statutes prohibited such bond hearings for immigrants. However, the immigrants had also argued that their prolonged detention without bond hearings was unconstitutional. Despite ordering supplemental briefing and a second oral argument on that issue, the court declined to decide it. Instead, it sent the case back for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to address the constitutional issues. The court’s failure to address that question suggests that, with Justice Kagan recused, the Court was equally divided on the question.

The ACLU has already submitted briefing in the Ninth Circuit and other lower courts arguing that the government’s practice of locking up immigrants for more than six months without a hearing violates the Due Process Clause. Through this case and others, we will continue the fight for due process for immigrants.


The NSA Is Using Secrecy to Avoid a Courtroom Reckoning on Its Global Surveillance Dragnet

The NSA Is Using Secrecy to Avoid a Courtroom Reckoning on Its Global Surveillance Dragnet
The government is stonewalling in Wikimedia’s lawsuit against warrantless spying.
By Patrick Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project & Asma Peracha, Fellow, ACLU National Security Project
Jun 29 2018

President Trump holds the keys to some of the most powerful spying programs in the world — surveillance that gives the government warrantless access to a sea of digital data moving around the planet.

Emails, web browsing activities, and chats that you thought were private instead end up under the government’s digital microscope, and the National Security Agency saves those of interest in searchable databases for years to come. That includes countless communications of Americans and foreigners alike.

No president should wield these powers, and certainly not one who has called for expanded spying on minorities and hacking the emails of his political rival. That’s why, well before President Trump took office, the ACLU filed a challenge to expansive and unlawful surveillance on behalf of our client, the Wikimedia Foundation.

On Friday, we will be in court with our co-counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute and the law firm Cooley LLP for oral argument in the case, Wikimedia v. NSA, challenging one of the most egregious forms of government spying, known as “Upstream.”

Upstream surveillance involves the NSA’s mass interception and searching of Americans’ international internet communications. The NSA conducts this surveillance by tapping into the internet backbone inside the United States — the physical infrastructure that carries our domestic and international online communications. This spying occurs under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the NSA to engage in warrantless surveillance of Americans who communicate with targets located abroad. Although the NSA has conducted Upstream surveillance in one form or another for more than a decade, no public court has ever decided whether this spying regime is constitutional.

The Wikimedia Foundation runs Wikipedia — one of the most popular websites in the world, with hundreds of millions of visitors each month. Wikimedia has sued to stop the government from searching its internet communications, which it relies on to exchange information with its many far-flung contributors and readers. Web-browsing activities like these can reveal deeply personal information about what people are reading or writing online, including their political views, religious beliefs, medical questions, and other private information.

Wikipedia is a library for the digital age. The government should not be continuously looking over people’s shoulders, monitoring what individuals are privately reading online.

The government has fought every step of the way to prevent Wikimedia from challenging the ongoing surveillance of communications with Wikipedia readers and contributors. The NSA argued Wikimedia’s claims weren’t “plausible” because the NSA hadn’t admitted to the surveillance, but the government failed in its effort to get the case dismissed when a federal court of appeals ruled against it. The case then proceeded to the discovery phase, where Wikimedia sought information that would build on the extensive public record and deposed an NSA official.

Friday’s hearing is focused on the NSA’s use of a legal tactic called the “state secrets privilege” to hide basic facts about Upstream surveillance from Wikimedia and the court, despite all that has been disclosed in public reports, official government testimony, and news stories. Although the government has touted its commitment to transparency since Edward Snowden helped reveal a vast NSA spying apparatus five years ago, it has stonewalled Wikimedia’s requests for information in court.

The NSA has invoked the state secrets privilege in response to dozens of questions, baselessly refusing to provide a shred of new information about Upstream surveillance. For example, while the NSA has admitted systematically scanning traffic on the internet’s major arteries, it refuses even to confirm that it has searched a single one of Wikimedia’s trillions of communications with its users around the world.


‘No person in America should be too poor to live’: Ocasio-Cortez explains democratic socialism to Colbert

[Note:  This item comes from friend Robert Berger.  DLH]

‘No person in America should be too poor to live’: Ocasio-Cortez explains democratic socialism to Colbert
By John Wagner
Jun 29 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in a Democratic congressional primary this week, continued a media blitz on Thursday night, appearing on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Foremost on the host’s agenda was learning what the 28-year-old means when she describes herself as a “democratic socialist,” which Colbert said is “not an easy term for a lot of Americans.”

“I believe that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live,” Ocasio-Cortez told Colbert. “So what that means is health care as a human right. It means that every child, no matter where you are born, should have access to a college or trade school education if they so choose it. And, you know, I think that no person should be homeless if we can have public structures and public policies to allow for people to have homes and food and lead a dignified life in the United States.”

“Those all seems like very worthy goals,” Colbert responded, adding: “You may get a little resistance from Donald Trump.”

Colbert then shared a Trump tweet from earlier in the week in which he declared Crowley a “Big Trump Hater” and suggested that his loss, which “nobody saw happening,” was partly because Crowley was not nicer and more respectful to the president.

“So I ask you, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are you going to be nicer to the president?” Colbert asked.

“Well,” she said, “you know the president is from Queens, and with all due respect, half of my district is from Queens. I don’t think he knows how to deal with a girl from the Bronx.”

A Chinese-Style Digital Dystopia Isn’t As Far Away As We Think

A Chinese-Style Digital Dystopia Isn’t As Far Away As We Think
A handful of giant companies are centralizing control of the internet, and our courts and government are going along with it.
By Matt Stoller
Jun 27 2018

Chinese journalist Liu Hu always knew he’d have trouble with the authorities; he had been exposing corruption and wrongdoing for years. He was used to being hassled with regular fines and forced apologies imposed by his authoritarian government. He nevertheless persisted in truth-telling.

One day in 2017, Hu logged onto a travel site, but couldn’t book a flight because the site said he was “not qualified.” Soon he discovered he was blocked from buying property, using the high-speed train network, or getting a loan. And there was nothing he could do about it. His rights to essential goods and services were now circumscribed through an algorithm designed to discriminate against the 7.5 million people on China’s “Dishonest Persons Subject to Enforcement” list.

Welcome to the Chinese “social credit score” system, whose goal is to rank China’s 1.4 billion people. Conceptually, it is not that different from a financial credit score in the US. But the social credit score includes things like political outspokenness, shopping habits, friends, travel habits, and anything the authorities want to encourage or discourage. This score then fine-tunes your access to essential social goods based on a discriminatory algorithm.

Such a nightmarish system could never, of course, happen in the United States. Or could it? Three recent decisions in Washington suggest it is not as far-fetched as we might imagine, with both our courts and our government effectively endorsing the way a handful of giant companies are centralizing control over our society.

First, the Republican-controlled FCC abandoned rules that prevented internet providers from discriminating between different forms of data flowing through their networks. The result is that interfering with the flow of information, rather than facilitating it, will become a lucrative new business model for telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast.

Days later, a federal judge rejected the government’s attempt to block AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner, a giant media conglomerate that owns TV channels like CNN and HBO. The government argued that the combined company would be too powerful, and able to discriminate against rivals. The judge disagreed. He essentially said Google, Facebook, and Amazon have now become so powerful that the only way AT&T can compete is to bulk up its own power in a marketplace of goliaths. Within days of that decision, a bidding war between Comcast and Disney broke out over 21st Century Fox.

The reason these companies want to merge the pipelines of the internet with the content that flows through them is simple: They want to build detailed individual profiles of internet users — how they browse the web, what they watch. If there’s any doubt that’s the reason, consider the judge’s own words in allowing the AT&T deal. The merger allows AT&T to imitate “highly successful, data-driven entities” like Google, he said. To underscore the point, this week AT&T bought yet another company, AppNexus, which was one of the largest remaining digital advertising marketplaces not already controlled by a Silicon Valley giant.

The hits keep on coming: On Monday, the Supreme Court, in a case involving credit cards, issued a decision that will effectively immunize tech platforms and other networked systems against antitrust scrutiny.

All these decisions are dangerous on their own. Together they show how centralized control of the internet could enable the possibility of automated discrimination on the level of the individual citizen. Which is exactly the power we are seeing deployed in China, even if the politics are different.

To understand how frightening this power is, it’s important to first understand the concept of “first degree” price discrimination. First-degree price discrimination is when every individual gets a separate price based on their unique characteristics. We accept price discrimination all the time; going to the movies and getting a senior discount is price discrimination. But in that case, the decision of how to discriminate is done by class; it is publicly posted; and everyone accepts that, in this case, seniors get a discount. It is a public decision to discriminate.

Discriminating on an individual level is different and allows for powerful exploitation and manipulation of the citizen. In areas with first-degree price discrimination, like car insurance or credit cards, there are often gender- or race-based pricing choices. With increasing datafication of society, we can see this increasingly organized to the level of the individual.

An airline could, for instance, analyze your email for the words “death in the family” and “travel,” look at your credit limit, and then offer you a price based on this information. Or imagine a group of companies putting together a common list of troublemakers, perhaps negative online reviewers or commenters or consumers who frequently return items. All of a sudden, for no obvious reason, someone who returns an item to one store might find that prices on a host of socially essentially goods have done up.