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How to Limit Eye Fatigue from Working at a Computer All Day

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that after staring at my computer for 6 hours, my vision can feel horribly blurred and sluggish. As someone who doesn?t need corrective eyewear, I sometimes get the feeling that my daily computer work is shortening my lens-free years one day at a time.

But we live in a technological world and many of us?have to work with technology day after day.?How can we keep our eyes healthy in such an unnatural environment??If you?re concerned about the damage, stress and eye fatigue you experience from working on a computer all day, try these 5 tips to help keep your eyesight healthy…

Incorporate eye exercises.

Looking at a screen encourages us not to blink?while?aggressively holding one focus for long periods of time. To an eye, that is exhausting. To prevent eyestrain, look at something that is at least 20 feet away (not a screen) for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Yes, every 20 minutes. Set a timer on your phone and use that time to take a few deep breaths and recenter yourself. Once an hour, take a bonus break. Get up, stretch your legs and walk around for a few minutes. Not only will you feel better and more peppy, but you’ll be saving your eyes in the long run.

Limit unnecessary technology time.

Computers emit blue light.?Blue light is the shortest visible wavelength and is more challenging on the eyes than long hues like red. If you have to do all of your work, day in and out, on a screen, you need to?consider ditching the screens when you get off work. I know, Netflix is calling your name, but try to make Netflix nights a treat more than a habit. Instead, listen to music/podcasts, read a book or magazine, play a game with your family or do some journaling. Nighttime screentime is damaging to sleep cycles anyways, so you are better off ridding yourself of the habit in the name of healthier eyes and deeper sleep.

Adjust your display.

You don’t need your display on full brightness. Dim it down to a level where you can feel your eyes relax. Try using plugins like f.lux or the “night shift” function on macs to reduce the amount of blue light that is pummeling your pupils at all hours of the day. Also make sure you’ve customized your text size preferences so that you aren’t squinting and struggling to read important documents on your screen.

Go outside often.

When you are zombie-ing in front of a screen, it is hugely important to make sure you get outside into some daylight at least once throughout the day. Maybe take your lunch break on a park bench outside. Maybe take a walking meeting. Whatever it is, find more ways to expose your eyes to the natural, wide spectrum of light outside.

If you work under?fluorescent lights, try switching your area to full-spectrum?fluorescents to better mimic outside light. However, when using a computer for long stretches, turn overhead lights down or off and close the shades to minimize computer glare. You want to keep the surrounding area soft and about half as bright as your screen.?

Eat your veggies.

You know how your mom told you to eat your carrots so you would have strong eyes? The antioxidants in certain vegetables may have the power to counteract the negative effects of technological eye fatigue. Lutein and zeaxanthin specifically are potent antioxidants generally found in the retina. In fact, lutein has been shown to reduce macular degeneration.

Not only do these yellow-hued antioxidants prevent damage, but they absorb the blue light before it enters the retina, reducing overall stress. You can find these antioxidants in?egg yolks, yellow corn, orange peppers, squash and in smaller quantities in leafy greens. What about carrots, you ask? Carrots are high in vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient for healthy vision, but it seems like the carrot claim may be more fiction than fact.

What do you do to reduce eyestrain when you are on a computer all day? Do you find that you just try to charge through it? Or do you thrive with regular breaks? Share your habits and advice with the community below!??

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How to Actually Stick with Your Goals
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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How to Limit Eye Fatigue from Working at a Computer All Day

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Facebook’s Not Designed to Create a “Global Community”

Mother Jones

In the early 1960’s, Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village.” He predicted that electronic technologies would come to connect citizens around the world, forming one huge community. Mark Zuckerberg, whose company Facebook has 1.8 billion users worldwide, continues to echo the idea in his public talks, including in February when he apologized about the spread of fake news on his platform and restated his mission to “build a global community that works for all of us.” But was McLuhan right? Have the internet’s inventions brought us closer together?

Ramesh Srinivasan, a professor at UCLA, raises this question in his debut book Whose Global Village? Rethinking How Technology Impacts Our World. As a researcher focused on the relationship between technology, politics, and society, Srinivasan proposes a deconstruction of Western tech company narratives. He points out that today’s most popular technological tools were developed by just a few men in Silicon Valley. And while their social media platforms may be wildly popular, these founders tend to get too much credit for influencing events around the globe. For instance, Srinivasan points out that there is a belief that the Egyptian revolution during the Arab Spring in 2011 was only possible thanks to Twitter and Facebook—actually, less than 10 percent of Egyptians had access to those platforms in their homes at the time.

Srinivasan also shares his own experiences about community empowerment through technology with Native Americans in California and New Mexico, and with locals in Egypt and in rural India. In addition to greater transparency in contracts established on the Internet, the author urges for the creation of more tech tools that respect cultural values ​​and the voices of local communities.

Mother Jones: Why did you write this book?

Ramesh Srinivasan: The book really comes out of my own personal experience. I am a former engineer and I was really excited about the possibility of building better technology to serve humanity. A lot of us as engineers have this belief that if you build a tool you somehow can empower humans economically or socially. The idea of building a better technology often means more efficiency. When I was in graduate school at MIT I was trying to think about how to develop software and systems for farmers and villagers in India. In the process of doing that, I realized that my reference point was internal to the laboratory, rather than in the communities that I was wanting to serve. So in a sense I was not necessarily thinking about the values, belief systems, and the realities that are being experiencing by the communities that I was supposed to be working with. I realized that I could no longer assume what a good technology looks like from inside the laboratory; instead, I had to be in the world with people. Not just designing for them but with them.

MJ: What is the real meaning of technology to you?

RS: Technology is nothing but an expression of human values. It’s not neutral, it’s not about efficiency, it’s about people’s values and their knowledge. If you share information widely, but you present that information in ways that fits your own view, you’re actually still misrepresenting. So instead what you should do is figure out ways to build systems that allow people to experience and classify their information in ways that are meaningful for them.

MJ: What is the “global village,” and why is it a myth?

RS: It was a term that was stated by Marshall McLuhan; his prediction was some kind of electronic communication technology would emerge to instantaneously connect the world so much so that the whole globe would be like a village. The question isn’t about global village but whose global village. The point I’m trying to make is if these networks of communication technologies are owned, monetized, surveilled, and classified by those with power—very few people, mainly white men in Silicon Valley—then it is a global village build upon the ideas, visions, words, and protocols of the few. So it’s not global—it’s like Epcot center. It’s like Disneyland: a small worldview of the larger world.

MJ: As you said, Twitter and Facebook were accessed in fewer than 10 percent of Egyptian homes in 2011. Why do people believe the revolution was led by this kind of technology?

RS: Some of the activists of course were using social media. But overall in the country, including in Cairo, a very small percentage were using it. They were using these tools to influence journalism, to influence the international coverage. The Egyptians used every form of organizing they could think of and they built coalitions. A lot of the people that were involved in this had been organizing for 30 or 40 years.

MJ: Why do you say that inequality today is a major part of the story of the internet?

RS: In its early days the Internet seem to be a counter cultural space and an anti corporate space, now is the place for corporate economic production. What the internet is now isn’t what it used to be and it doesn’t have to be what it turns into. Instagram was sold to Facebook for $1 billion with 13 employees in the Bay Area. In the same year, Kodak, which had employed more than 40,000 people, was bankrupt. What is happening in a digital economy where 40,000 people lose their jobs and 13 people become super millionaires? Those systems are created in such way that support the capturing of data, keeping of data, buying and selling the data to support what we call corporate surveillance. These are things that are happening right now and they’re really bad.

MJ: What are the main conceptual changes that the World Wide Web has faced since the 1990’s? It was a more decentralized structure before, right?

RS: Absolutely, it was horizontal, decentralized. It was like being in Wild West, the frontier. There is a reason why Electronic Frontier Foundation is called that way. It was supposed to be this open place where all sorts of crazy stuff could happen, like unpredictable, uncontrolled space, that really supported autonomy and privacy, but still worked because people had an idea of social contract. You could kind of be free and expressive but you already knew when you joined the internet, you knew that you should not be a troll. So what happened? Part of it is the internet scaled to such a degree so the kind of idea of a social contract or a community became increasingly difficult to maintain. Part of it is that platforms took over the open internet. You began to experience the internet through platforms that were themselves controlled by specific companies, technical instruments of those companies, like search and retrieval and ordering and classification.

MJ: Isn’t it also a problem of scale?

RS: Scale doesn’t need to mean the absence of decentralization. If you create networks that allow people in their own local systems to have power and agency and sovereignty in their own systems. The idea that people could just know what’s happening with their data. You could work with the platform, in communication with it, more than “I’m just like experiencing as a blind person in a black box”.

MJ: Do you think we should have more legislation about privacy?

RS: Not just about privacy, but also about community sovereignty. Communities that are using the internet should be aware of what the terms of their contract are with these platforms and they don’t even know. Google and Facebook extend internet access across the world, but the access is generally speaking to an internet that is focused on the advertisers to those sites. So I’m really interested not just in privacy for the individual but respect for the local communities. And I think we have a problem with both and whenever industries kind of become almost monopolistic they have to be challenged to be more responsible. We can challenge them in the press, in the courts and in regulation.

MJ: I’m afraid that government ruling the internet might not be a good thing either.

RS: I think the governments need to encourage these companies and convince them that they can be extremely profitable without necessarily spiraling out of control. Without becoming monopolist. But we are getting close to the point where as every platform of tech that has any level of scale gets bought by either Google or Facebook or sometimes Microsoft. We are getting to the point where we see some oligopoly in terms of behavior online, and that it’s really problematic because the oligopolies are completely non transparent, they are terrible in terms of labor and economic equality and they support systems of surveillance. It can create a world where we are all placed in bubbles, where the systems themselves can be manipulated by people who don’t have our best interests in mind. The fake news thing came out that system. Fake news is a product of the internet that is not transparent. Fake news can spread online because as users we have no idea where any of the content we see comes from.

MJ: What do you see happening with the big tech companies right now?

RS: We are at a moment that some of the Silicon Valley companies are feeling the pressure. These days the founder of Twitter apologized that his company promoted some of the things that elected Trump. You don’t see that much of these apologizing from Google. From Zuckerberg you are hearing a little bit more of it, but he is a little more “Oh, well, this is what happens because the internet scaled up and everybody has fake news; oh, we are gonna build a better technology”. This is what engineers in Silicon Valley typically do. “Ok, well, of course there are some problems of our technology because it is so excellent and is so global so we are just gonna build a better one.” What do you mean by better? They are not understating that they are so politically and socially and culturally central in the world. They would probably never have thought that they would become like this. But now that they are, what are they gonna do about it? I have a lots of friends who work in these companies: it’s about taking responsibility.

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Facebook’s Not Designed to Create a “Global Community”

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William Gibson’s Resistance Reading

Mother Jones

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We asked a range of authors and creative types to recommend books that bring solace and/or understanding in this age of cultural and political rancor. More than two dozen responded. Here are selections from the pioneering science-fiction novelist William Gibson.

Latest book: The Peripheral
Also known for: Neuromancer
Reading recommendations: Essential reading for the era of Trump: Outbreak! The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior, by Hilary Evans and Robert Bartholomew. At 784 pages, a literal encyclopedia of the workings of rumor, fear, and the madness of crowds. As the back cover has it, “This Encyclopedia is an authoritative reference on a broad range of topics: collective behavior, deviance, social and perceptual psychology, sociology, history, folklore, religious studies, political science, social anthropology, gender studies, critical thinking, and mental health. Never before have so many sources been brought together on the mesmerizing topic of collective behavior.”

The election of Donald Trump is best understood in terms of collective behavior. Familiarity with the weird and terrifying things we’ve done before, as a species, is essential to understanding what many of us, driven by fear and uncertainty, are doing now. Baffled by Trump’s popularity (such as it is)? Read Evans and Bartholomew on lycanthropy and laughing epidemics. Seriously.

Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt
Master photo by
Michael O’Shea
So far in this series: Daniel Alarcón, Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Michael Eric Dyson, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, William Gibson, Piper Kerman, Phil Klay, Alex Kotlowitz, Bill McKibben, Rabbi Jack Moline, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Peggy Orenstein, Wendy C. Ortiz, Darryl Pinckney, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Tracy K. Smith, Ayelet Waldman, Gene Luen Yang. (New posts daily.)

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William Gibson’s Resistance Reading

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911 Is Practically Useless for Millions of People. Here’s Why.

Mother Jones

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When Julian Singleton called 911 about two years ago, it didn’t go well. It was the middle of the night and his 83-year-old wife, Bernice, had fallen and lay unconscious on the kitchen floor. The retired graphics art instructor wanted to call 911, but because Julian has been deaf his entire life, he knew that he first had to call a video relay service. Once connected, he would sign with an interpreter and the interpreter would then speak to the emergency call center in Maricopa County, Arizona. The responses then would be signed back to Singleton in a laborious process that could rob his wife of crucial minutes of care.

But Singleton still went through it. He had no other options. Once connected with 911, he remembers the operator peppering him with questions. “My wife is laying here on the floor,” he tells Mother Jones through an interpreter. “I can’t be answering these questions…So I gave up and hung up. I picked up my wife and took her to the hospital myself.”

Singleton is one of about 1 million people over the age of five who are functionally deaf. There are also 37.5 million adults who have some trouble hearing, according to the National Institutes of Health, and in the first nationally representative study, Johns Hopkins University estimates that 1 in 5 Americans who are at least 12 years old suffer from hearing loss so severe it could make communication difficult.

Those who cannot easily communicate over the phone—and this includes some people with autism, speech disabilities, cerebral palsy, and other conditions—face sometimes life-threatening barriers when trying to call emergency services at 911. The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act guaranteed direct and equal access to emergency services, and a year later the Department of Justice established rules requiring call centers to be accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. But this all occurred before cellphones became widely used and relies on an outdated technology known as TTY, or text telephone, in which two people who each have a keyboard communicate through phone lines.

“The old US Department of Justice regulations say all 911 centers must be accessible to use by TTY and voice-over,” Claude Stout, executive director of Telecommunications for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, explains through an interpreter. “But the problem is, not many of us use TTYs anymore.”

That’s why disability rights lawyers have joined with deaf advocates in New York and Arizona—where Singleton is a plaintiff—to sue localities charging that emergency services are out of compliance with the ADA by not providing equal access to 911. In Arizona, two other residents and the National Association of the Deaf, a group that advocates on behalf of the deaf and hard of hearing, are suing the state, some cities, local governments, and government agencies. In New York, New York City is being sued as well as emergency service agencies in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. Both lawsuits are calling on the courts to require call centers to adopt text-to-911 technologies. In a statement to Mother Jones, the National Association for the Deaf says it has “determined that litigation is necessary to effectuate a nationwide solution.”

Stout explains the failure to update the regulations from the early 1990s have left the deaf and those who cannot communicate easily over the phone dependent on others to access emergency care. He knows from personal experience. When Stout thought he was having a heart attack in 2011, he says he’s lucky he wasn’t alone. His colleagues in the office were around to drive him to the hospital.

Even though deaf people can reach emergency services through relay services, the many steps required in the process makes equal access impossible. “The average time is anywhere from three to eight minutes before we’re connected to the 911 center,” Richard Ray, an expert on the issue who works on improving accessibility and ADA compliance for the city of Los Angeles, explains through an interpreter. “Each second counts in those emergency situations.” This wait time is far from “functionally equivalent” to that of a hearing person as required by the ADA, Ray notes. The national standard established by the National Emergency Number Association requires 90 percent of 911 calls to be picked up within 10 seconds.

This isn’t a new problem, but disability advocates argue there is a simple solution: 911 call centers should be able to transmit and receive texts. “Texting to 911 should have been set up yesterday,” Ray explains. “We’re not in a situation where we can wait any longer.” Additionally, texting would provide another option for everyone to reach emergency services when calling might be unsafe, like during an ongoing break in.

One problem with adopting text-to-911 technology is structural. According to Kevin Murray, CEO of Mission Critical Partners, a public safety consulting company, and the former chair of the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies, every new technology requires a workaround because the infrastructure at emergency call centers was developed in the 1970s and 1980s. While text-to911 can be added, it’s a complicated process. “Imagine you buy the latest 3-D TVs and LED TVs and you bought your home automation systems and you purchased all these advanced technologies,” Murray says, “but then you hooked them up to a pair of outside analogue antennas.” He notes that this is comparable to what is happening with 911 today because “there are no broadband connections that really tie these systems together.”

Call centers are regulated and funded differently depending on the state and jurisdiction, which means access to 911 depends a lot on where one lives. In some states, text-to-911 is available everywhere, but in other states it doesn’t exist at all or access can vary from county to county. Out of the nearly 6,000 call centers nationwide, fewer than 1,000 accept text messages. To ensure universal access, the federal government would have to start enforcing the ADA. Murray says the industry is out of compliance with the law and the current state of access is “an embarrassment to the industry and to the US as a whole.”

Some call centers are using workarounds to integrate text-to-911 into the outdated infrastructure, but there’s also another option: Next Generation 911, a new system that allows people to communicate with 911 digitally. Eventually the technology will allow people to send images to or even video-call emergency services. Some places, such as Vermont, have upgraded already, and public safety leaders are pushing for Next Generation 911 to be available throughout the country by 2020, but Murray says there’s no federal commitment or funding to implement the service and meet that deadline. Even without it, the jurisdictions that have adopted Next Gen have call centers that are funded locally.

Back in 2010, the Department of Justice announced plans to propose new rules to make emergency services accessible with modern technology and accepted comments on the matter for about six months. Disability advocates are hopeful the new administration will continue to move forward with the process and update the rules later this year, as previously scheduled by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice under the Obama administration. The division declined a request for comment from Mother Jones about next steps.

Real change may be forced by the courts. Both of the lawsuits seeking equal access to 911 are in their early stages, but Vargas, an attorney for the plaintiffs in Arizona, doesn’t believe arguments against the lawsuit will hold up. The judge has denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, in which they argued call centers already provide adequate access and follow federal guidelines. “If I were a 911 provider that was not providing text-to-911 access, I would be calling a meeting tomorrow to make it happen because this is not a negotiable issue,” she says. “You cannot choose not to provide 911 access to people because of disability. It’s simply the most profound kind of discrimination.”

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911 Is Practically Useless for Millions of People. Here’s Why.

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California Mobilizes for War Against Trump

Mother Jones

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Here in America’s most populous state, the wealthy pay the nation’s highest income tax rate, the minimum wage will soon rise to $15 an hour statewide, more than a quarter of the population is foreign born, and the economy is booming. California, the world’s sixth-largest economy and a bastion of progressivism, is now being hailed as a kind of great blue firewall—Democrats’ most important bulwark against the retrograde policies of Donald Trump.

“If you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, then come at us,” Xavier Becerra, the state’s incoming attorney general, taunted the president-elect in December.

“One thing that should be made very clear is that one election won’t change the values of the state of California,” Kevin de León, the Senate president pro tempore, told Mother Jones. “What we would say to the incoming Trump administration is that we hope you find value in what we do in California—by growing the economy, creating real jobs that can be verified, reducing our carbon footprint, respecting immigrants for who they are, and recognizing that diversity, a rich mosaic of different hues, is actually a strength, not a weakness.”

Soon after Trump announced Cabinet nominees that “confirmed our worst fears about what a Trump presidency would look like,” says de León, he and his colleagues in the Statehouse retained former US Attorney General Eric Holder to advise on potential legal challenges from the next White House. “He brings a lot of legal firepower to do everything within our power to protect the policies, people, and progressive values of California.”

In a state where Democrats control all statewide elected offices and a supermajority of the Legislature, the economy grew 4.1 percent in 2015—the fastest in the country and nearly double the national average. Since 2011, when Democrat Jerry Brown replaced Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor, the state has turned a $26 billion budget deficit into a surplus that is projected to include upward of $8 billion for a rainy-day fund by the end of 2017. California has leveraged its booming economy to expand social services; since 2014, it has increased its budget for child care and preschool for low-income children by 24 percent, to $3.7 billion.

Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and alignment with far-right extremists during the presidential campaign alienated many people in California, which boasts an economy that in many ways is defined by immigrant labor, global free trade, and a progressive regulatory regime. A push to deport undocumented farmworkers could hurt the state’s agricultural sector. The green-energy sector fears a loss of subsidies and more drilling, maybe even in pristine federally protected waters just off the coast. Silicon Valley is suspicious of Trump on cybersecurity, trade protectionism, and the import of highly skilled tech workers. And then there is Hollywood: Meryl Streep’s condemnation of Trump at the Golden Globes this month underscored a deep antipathy for the president-elect among celebrities, many of whom have declined to perform at his inauguration.

But California’s leaders aren’t just engaging in a rhetorical war on Trump. Here’s what the Golden State is already doing to counter the president-elect on a range of major issues and defend its progressive achievements.

Climate Change

Trump famously suggested global warming is a Chinese hoax and has vowed to “cancel” the Paris Accord committing nearly every nation to curb emissions. His pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is a climate change denier best known for suing the EPA in an effort to overturn its clean-energy policies. A darling of oil and coal interests, Pruitt has vowed as EPA chief to fight “unnecessary regulations” and promote “freedom for American business.”

But even if the Trump administration works to pull America back toward its carbon-spewing past, it will have little impact in California, which last year enacted a bill requiring the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Recently, Gov. Brown and other state leaders said they would bypass Trump and work directly with other nations and states to reduce emissions; California already trades emissions credits with Quebec, and in 2013 the state inked a pact with China committing to joint efforts to combat climate change and support clean energy—the only such agreement China has signed with a subnational government.

California plays a unique role in setting national energy policy: Section 209 of the Clean Air Act allows California, but not other states, to set its own stricter-than-federal emissions standards for automobiles if they address “compelling and extraordinary conditions.” Other states are then allowed to adopt those regulations. To date, 10 other states, representing 40 percent of the US population, have signed on to California’s tighter efficiency and emissions rules for cars, appliances, and automobiles. “The California standard actually governs in many cases rather than the federal standard,” notes Hal Harvey, president of Energy Innovation, a policy research group in San Francisco, “because nobody wants to make two product lines.”

California plays a less decisive role in directly supporting environmental sciences and energy research, which depend heavily on federal support, but Brown has signaled a desire to step in if Trump pulls the plug. “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight,” Brown said at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco. He even suggested that if Trump follows through on some advisers’ ambitions to end NASA’s role in climate science, California could step in and “launch its own damn satellite.”


Though Trump campaigned on the idea of deporting America’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, he has more recently said he will focus first on deporting 2 million to 3 million immigrants with criminal records—a number that would presumably include many people who’ve committed minor infractions. (Only about 820,000 undocumented immigrants have been convicted of crimes, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.) But pursuing mass deportations in California won’t be easy. A 2014 law bans state authorities from holding immigrants convicted of minor crimes for any longer than required by criminal law, thereby protecting them from being turned over to federal authorities for deportation. Many California cities have even broader “sanctuary city” policies.

Last month, state legislators introduced a package of bills that would go even further: Legislation authored by de León would bar state and local authorities from enforcing immigration laws, limit records sharing with federal immigration officials, and create “safe zones” at schools, hospitals, and courthouses where immigration enforcement would be prohibited. “To the millions of undocumented residents pursuing and contributing to the California Dream, the state of California will be your wall of justice should the incoming administration adopt an inhumane and overreaching mass-deportation policy,” de León said last month.

Other proposed bills would subsidize immigrant legal services by training public defenders in immigration law and setting up a fund to cover legal bills for immigrants caught up in deportation proceedings. Studies have shown that immigrants with a lawyer are far more likely to succeed in challenging deportation proceedings. Los Angeles last month announced a $10 million immigrant legal fund; the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office has proposed a similar $5 million fund.

More than a quarter of immigrants in the United States illegally live in California. In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187, a ballot measure making undocumented immigrants ineligible for public benefits. But since then, the state has moved sharply in the other direction. In 2011, Brown signed the California DREAM Act, allowing Californians who came to the country illegally when they were children to apply for financial aid from state colleges. In 2013, California allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, qualify for in-state tuition, and obtain law and other professional licenses. Last year, the state expanded its California-only Medicaid (Medi-Cal) program to undocumented children.

Anticipating that the Trump administration could use records collected through such programs to identify and round up undocumented immigrants, the American Civil Liberties Union is pushing for further safeguards here. “We’re concerned about ensuring that information is protected and can remain confidential,” says Jennie Pasquarella, the director of immigrant rights for the ACLU of California. “It is critical that California first show a model for the rest of the country—our values as a state that is filled with immigrants.” California’s Kamala Harris announced earlier this month that her first act as a US senator would be to co-sponsor legislation to protect the nation’s 744,000 “DREAMers” from deportation.

Health Care

Republicans and Trump have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act—but in California the law is overwhelmingly popular and successful. The law has provided $20 billion for the Medi-Cal program and for insurance subsidies for 1.2 million Californians, helping to cut the state’s uninsured rate by half, from 6.5 million people in 2012 to 3.3 million in 2015. Patient advocacy groups don’t want to give up those gains. In December, the California Endowment announced that it would spend $25 million over three years to defend against federal cuts to Obamacare and other social programs. “California has made great progress both economically and on the health front over the past several years,” says Daniel Zingale, senior vice president of the Endowment’s Healthy California program. “We think it is important to defend that from threats in Washington.”

Several California leaders are even pushing Trump to replace Obamacare with “Medicare for All,” a.k.a. single-payer health care. “The one I am counting on the most to push nationalized health care is Trump,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the head of the Oakland-based National Nurses United union, told Politico, citing Trump’s “international perspective” as a businessman and the fact that his wife comes from Slovenia, which has a single-payer system. Another major backer of “Medicare for All” is California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who as mayor of San Francisco in 2007 launched Healthy San Francisco, a health care plan available to all city residents regardless of their immigration status, employment, or preexisting conditions.


Trump’s pick for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, last year killed a bipartisan bill that would have reduced prison sentences for some lower-level drug offenders. He said last April that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that “we need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”

Though Sessions moderated that rhetoric during his confirmation hearing this week, his nomination is staunchly opposed by California’s $3 billion legal marijuana industry and its representatives in Washington. “Sessions has a long history of opposing marijuana reform, and nothing he said at the hearing suggests he has changed his mind,” Bill Piper, senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, said in a press release. The DPA was a major backer of November’s successful California Proposition 64, which legalizes recreational marijuana.

In an echo of the Proposition 64 campaign, drug policy reform groups have partnered with civil rights groups such as the NAACP and LatinoJustice to oppose Sessions on the grounds that the war on drugs has fueled mass incarcerations of people of color for nonviolent offenses. They want to make sure Trump stands by his 2015 statement to the Washington Post that marijuana legalization “should be a state issue.”

Marijuana industry leaders expect California to vigorously defend Proposition 64 from any federal court challenges. “We would expect a very, very strong pushback from the state, because the reality is it’s a public safety issue,” Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, told the Los Angeles Times. “They have decriminalized a product, so if you don’t allow any sort of regulation in place for people to access that product, the underground market is only going to grow.”


Enthusiastically endorsed by the National Rifle Association, Trump has vowed to diminish federal gun regulations, including eliminating gun-free zones at schools and on military bases, and he supports a national right-to-carry law for concealed guns. During the presidential campaign he also suggested he would appoint an explicitly anti-gun-control justice to the US Supreme Court.

But California this year further strengthened its gun laws, which were already among the toughest in the nation. In July, Brown signed off on legislation that outlawed the possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, required background checks for the purchase of ammunition, and banned the sale of certain types of semi-automatic assault rifles. Proposition 63, approved by voters in November, added requirements for owners to report lost and stolen guns and created a system for confiscating guns from felons.

“The United States is a federal republic, not a monarchy, and California plays an outsized role in our nation’s success,” Lt. Governor Newsom, the architect of Proposition 63, said in a statement to Mother Jones. “The reduction of our state’s gun violence rate is a model for the nation and we’re resilient, flexible, and well prepared for any effort by the NRA and the President-elect to make California a Wild West again.”

One place where California hasn’t pushed back much against Trump since the election is Silicon Valley. A few rank-and-file tech workers have held meetings with civil rights groups, but tech CEOs have quietly sidled up to the president-elect. A few weeks ago, a handful of top tech names climbed Trump Tower for an awkward photo op with Trump and his children. “We definitely gave up a little stature now for possible benefit later,” one source told Recode’s Kara Swisher at the time. “It’s better to be quiet now and speak up later if we have to, and save our powder.”

The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and privacy on the internet, took out a full-page advertisement in Wired magazine in December, warning the technology community, “Your threat model has changed.” The ad calls upon tech companies to secure their networks against an incoming Trump administration by encrypting user data, scrubbing data logs, and disclosing government data requests while fighting them in court.

“For California, Trump is creating a lot of fronts where organizations and government are going to be fighting battles,” says Dave Maass, an investigative researcher at EFF. “We are focused on civil liberties and privacy, and we believe they are fundamental to whatever kind of activism battle that you want to fight. If you don’t have free speech and don’t have the ability to organize, then you can’t do anything.” He anticipates that California lawmakers will be generating a flurry of new bills, and that no small number of them “are going to be direct responses to Trump.”


California Mobilizes for War Against Trump

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Facebook Makes It Easy for Advertisers to Be Racist

Mother Jones

This story originally appeared on ProPublica.

Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers.

That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.

The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.

Here is a screenshot of a housing ad that we purchased from Facebook’s self-service advertising portal:


The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)

When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal “to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits the “printing or publication of notices or advertisements indicating prohibited preference, limitation, specification or discrimination” in employment recruitment.

Facebook’s business model is based on allowing advertisers to target specific groups 2014 or, apparently to exclude specific groups 2014 using huge reams of personal data the company has collected about its users. Facebook’s microtargeting is particularly helpful for advertisers looking to reach niche audiences, such as swing-state voters concerned about climate change. ProPublica recently offered a tool allowing users to see how Facebook is categorizing them. We found nearly 50,000 unique categories in which Facebook places its users.

Facebook says its policies prohibit advertisers from using the targeting options for discrimination, harassment, disparagement or predatory advertising practices.

“We take a strong stand against advertisers misusing our platform: Our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law,” said Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook. “We take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies.”

Satterfield said it’s important for advertisers to have the ability to both include and exclude groups as they test how their marketing performs. For instance, he said, an advertiser “might run one campaign in English that excludes the Hispanic affinity group to see how well the campaign performs against running that ad campaign in Spanish. This is a common practice in the industry.”

He said Facebook began offering the “Ethnic Affinity” categories within the past two years as part of a “multicultural advertising” effort.

Satterfield added that the “Ethnic Affinity” is not the same as race 2014 which Facebook does not ask its members about. Facebook assigns members an “Ethnic Affinity” based on pages and posts they have liked or engaged with on Facebook.

When we asked why “Ethnic Affinity” was included in the “Demographics” category of its ad-targeting tool if it’s not a representation of demographics, Facebook responded that it plans to move “Ethnic Affinity” to another section.

Facebook declined to answer questions about why our housing ad excluding minority groups was approved 15 minutes after we placed the order.

By comparison, consider the advertising controls that the New York Times has put in place to prevent discriminatory housing ads. After the newspaper was successfully sued under the Fair Housing Act in 1989, it agreed to review ads for potentially discriminatory content before accepting them for publication.

Steph Jespersen, the Times’ director of advertising acceptability, said that the company’s staff runs automated programs to make sure that ads that contain discriminatory phrases such as “whites only” and “no kids” are rejected.

The Times’ automated program also highlights ads that contain potentially discriminatory code words such as “near churches” or “close to a country club.” Humans then review those ads before they can be approved.

Jespersen said the Times also rejects housing ads that contain photographs of too many white people. The people in the ads must represent the diversity of the population of New York, and if they don’t, he says he will call up the advertiser and ask them to submit an ad with a more diverse lineup of models.

But, Jespersen said, these days most advertisers know not to submit discriminatory ads: “I haven’t seen an ad with 2018whites only’ for a long time.”

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Facebook Makes It Easy for Advertisers to Be Racist

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When the Food in Silicon Valley Isn’t Spicy Enough

Mother Jones

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Listen to this story on Bite, Mother Jones’ new food politics podcast. You can access all our episodes here, or subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or via RSS.

In the back of an industrial park in Silicon Valley, Dewi Sutanto stands over a simmering pot of red and bright orange sauce. It’s over 80 degrees in the kitchen, and stacked food containers line the counter. Sutanto has filled about half of the day’s orders, mostly with beef rendang, a clove and cardamom-infused slow-cooked meat. She wipes her hands on her apron before lifting the lid off a steaming pot of white rice.

Sutanto, originally from an island near Sumatra, Indonesia, lives in Milpitas, California. When she moved to the United States 40 years ago, she brought her family’s recipes cooked for friends. Word of her food spread quickly among the Indonesian community, and Sutanto started a small catering business. But now, instead of relying on word-of-mouth to connect with customers, she’s using an app.

Nasi padang is a staple of Sumatra, a dish of steamed rice and miniature bites of fish, vegetables, and spicy meat. Photo courtesy TaroBites.com

Taro, named after the root vegetable commonly used in African and South Asian food, allows users to order straight from cooks who specialize in cuisine from regions around the world. About 50 chefs offer menus that range from Moroccan and West Indian, to Sumatran and Chinese fusion. Silicon Valley is in many ways the perfect place for these chefs to find loyal customers: Busy tech workers, often immigrants, don’t have time to cook but often yearn for the authentic tastes of home. Out of Sutanto’s estimated 300 customers, 250 are from Indonesia.

Krisha Mehra co-founded Taro earlier this year. He said after watching his aunt try to juggle orders for her Indian food via text message, he wanted to make the process easier—for her and her customers. She never wanted to open her own eatery, Mehra said; she just enjoyed making home-cooked Indian food.

“If somebody really cooks well, opening a restaurant is one of the worst things they can do for themselves,” Mehra said, citing high start-up costs and long hours. “A lot of the chefs are stay-at-home moms or people who have a family…they’re adventurous enough to try a business out once a week.”

Now that more people are finding Sutanto through the app, she admits there have been a few changes to her traditional menu, especially when she cooks for non-Indonesians: “Everyone says that my food is too spicy,” she says with a laugh.

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When the Food in Silicon Valley Isn’t Spicy Enough

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President Obama’s Plan to Make America Smarter About Guns

Mother Jones

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On Friday, President Barack Obama released a plan for the federal government to promote the development of smart-gun technology. The guns, also known as “personalized firearms,” employ biometric or other sensor technologies to prevent them from being fired by anyone other than their owners.

“Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen, misused, or discharged accidentally,” Obama said in a Facebook post. “As long as we’ve got the technology to prevent a criminal from stealing and using your smartphone, then we should be able to prevent the wrong person from pulling a trigger on a gun.”

Obama began advocating smart guns in January, as part of his latest push to confront America’s costly gun violence crisis. He ordered the departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security to develop a strategy to promote the technologies and expedite government procurement of the weapons. The report released Friday details the following initiatives:

By October, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security will establish requirements that smart-gun manufacturers need to meet in order for their guns to be purchased by law enforcement agencies. They will also identify agencies willing to participate in a smart-gun pilot program.
The Department of Defense will help manufacturers test smart-gun technologies at the US Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. Manufacturers will be eligible to win cash prizes for successful designs.
The Department of Justice has authorized agencies to apply certain federal grants to the purchase of smart guns.

Gun companies first pursued smart guns in the 1990s, in part at the urging of the Clinton administration. Colt, Smith & Wesson, and O.F. Mossberg & Sons developed prototypes. The products were shelved, however, when market research showed consumers didn’t trust the weapons—and after the National Rifle Association and other gun rights activists denounced the companies for a product they claimed was a Trojan horse for gun control.

The recent rise in mass shootings has helped renew interest in smart guns, including among investors in Silicon Valley. The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, created by angel investor Ron Conway after the 2012 Newtown massacre, has handed out about $1 million in funding to gun safety startups. One grant recipient was Jonathan Mossberg, a former Mossberg & Sons VP and the developer of the iGun, a shotgun that will only fire if the shooter is wearing a special ring. Mossberg, who is working on miniaturizing his technology for handguns, told me by phone on Friday that Obama’s efforts could “raise a whole lot of interest and give people a sense of this market.”

By one estimate, smart guns may be a $1 billion slice of the industry. The White House initiative could help create more opportunity in the major market for supplying law enforcement agencies. Mossberg and a handful of other smart-gun developers have long been trying to get police departments interested in their weapons; an estimated 5 to 10 percent of police deaths occur when officers’ own firearms are used against them. Some law enforcement leaders have shown support for adopting the technology, including San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.

But strong opposition continues: The NRA remains sharply critical of Obama’s policy, which suggests the gun industry is likely to follow suit and ignore efforts on the technology. The Fraternal Order of Police, a national interest group representing the rank and file, is also signaling skepticism. “Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn’t be asked to be guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm nobody’s even seen yet,” FOP Director James Pasco told Politico. “We have some very, very serious questions.” (Politico failed to note that a charity run by the FOP has received at least $125,000 since 2010 from another conservative gun lobbying group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation.)

Obama on Friday also announced several other gun safety initiatives, including a proposed rule requiring the Social Security Administration to better report mental-illness information to the federal background check system, and a gun violence prevention conference to be hosted by the White House in May.

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President Obama’s Plan to Make America Smarter About Guns

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The FBI Spent More Than $1 Million to Hack One Potentially Useless Phone

Mother Jones

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It turns out the FBI’s 11-hour solution to its huge public fight with Apple didn’t come cheap.

FBI director James Comey said on Thursday that the agency paid more than $1 million to unnamed private-sector hackers for help in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI first attempted to make Apple write software that would allow law enforcement to unlock the phone quickly, but the company refused and said the request could unconstitutionally expand government authority. The case sparked an uproar over digital privacy as well as a major court battle, which stopped only when the FBI announced it had received the hackers’ help and withdrew its order to Apple.

Comey, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, didn’t give a specific price for the hack, but said it cost the agency more than he would make in the next seven years of his term as director. The FBI director makes at least $181,500 a year by law, putting the cost of the hack at a minimum of $1.27 million, by Comey’s estimate. An FBI press officer could not confirm the accuracy of Comey’s estimate or provide a specific cost.

“It was worth it,” Comey told the audience in Aspen. But it’s not clear how much value the hacking method or the phone actually has. Comey has repeatedly said that the method used to break into the phone would work only on an iPhone 5C running iOS 9, like the San Bernardino phone, and that Apple could discover and fix the security flaw that allowed the hack to work. And on Tuesday, CNN reported that the phone “didn’t contain evidence of contacts with other ISIS supporters or the use of encrypted communications during the period the FBI was concerned about.” The FBI argues the lack of information is valuable evidence in and of itself.

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The FBI Spent More Than $1 Million to Hack One Potentially Useless Phone

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Tech and Privacy Experts Erupt Over Leaked Encryption Bill

Mother Jones

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A draft of a highly anticipated Senate encryption bill was leaked to The Hill late on Thursday night, sparking a swift backlash from technology and privacy groups even before the legislation has been introduced.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Both senators are leading advocates for encryption “backdoors” that would allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to read secure messages. Some government officials, led by FBI Director James Comey, say such access is needed because criminals and terrorists are increasingly using encryption to dodge surveillance as they plot crimes and attacks. But tech and privacy advocates say there’s nothing to prevent cybercriminals and hackers from exploiting the same backdoors.

The Burr-Feinstein bill would require companies to respond to court orders for data by providing decrypted information or giving the government “such technical assistance as is necessary to obtain such information or data in an intelligible format.” The bill covers virtually every company involved with providing secure internet services, from device manufacturers and the makers of encrypted chat apps to “any person who provides a product or method to facilitate a communication or the processing or storage of data.” The bill does not lay out the penalties for refusing to comply with such court orders, as Apple recently did when it rejected the FBI’s request to help unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. An Apple lawyer declined to comment on the bill during a conference call with reporters on Friday.

Cryptography experts and privacy advocates immediately and overwhelmingly condemned the bill. “I could spend all night listing the various ways that Feinstein-Burr is flawed & dangerous. But let’s just say, ‘in every way possible,'” wrote Matt Blaze, a prominent cryptographer and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, in a tweet late on Thursday night. Julian Sanchez, a privacy and technology expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, responded similarly:

Advocates charge that the bill’s broad language will act as a dragnet, making nearly every tech company that provides an encrypted service subject to decryption requests that smaller companies may be unable to handle. “It will force companies that have implemented the strongest security measures to backtrack in order to poke holes in their own systems, and will prevent others from developing those systems in the first place,” said Amie Stepanovich, the US policy director for the digital freedom advocacy group Access Now, in a statement.

Reuters reported on Thursday that the White House would not support the bill, in keeping with its pledge last year not to demand any laws mandating backdoors into encryption. But White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz insisted the report was wrong and that the bill was still under review. “The idea that we’re going to withhold support for a bill that’s not introduced yet is inaccurate,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One.


Tech and Privacy Experts Erupt Over Leaked Encryption Bill

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