Sysadmin rockin' out in New York City!
95 stories
·
10 followers

New York Times abruptly eliminates its "director of information security" position: "there is no need for a dedicated focus on newsroom and journalistic security"

1 Comment and 2 Shares

Runa Sandvik (previously) is a legendary security researcher who spent many years as a lead on the Tor Project; in 2016, the New York Times hired her as "senior director of information security" where she was charged with protecting the information security of the Times's newsroom, sources and reporters. Yesterday, the Times fired her, eliminating her role altogether, because "there is no need for a dedicated focus on newsroom and journalistic security."

This is a remarkably shortsighted move on the part of the Times; as state actors, political operatives, griefers, spies and guns-for-hire seek to dominate information landscapes, the integrity of the Times's information security is every bit as important as the fire-suppression systems in its shiny new building.

In her farewell tweets, Sandvik writes, "I'm grateful for the 3.5 years of collaboration and helping support brilliant journalists; it's been amazing and exciting; I remain a fierce advocate for the mission of protecting reporters & sources, and I'm very disappointed to see this chapter brought to a sudden close."

If you are a source contemplating going to the Times with a story that could land you in physical, economic, or legal jeopardy, this is really sobering news: can you trust a news entity with your safety when it has eliminated the only person charged with defending it?

(Thanks, Cyrus!)

(Image: Ajay Suresh, CC BY, modified

Read the whole story
shanel
24 days ago
reply
No bueno.
New York, New York
Share this story
Delete

Facebook says Trump can lie in his Facebook ads

1 Comment and 3 Shares
Read the whole story
shanel
44 days ago
reply
Are you frickin kidding me?
New York, New York
diannemharris
45 days ago
reply
Share this story
Delete

IRS admits it audits poor people because auditing rich people is too expensive

2 Comments and 4 Shares

Nine years ago, Republican lawmakers gutted the IRS's budget, but didn't relax its requirement to conduct random audits: in response, the IRS has shifted its focus from auditing rich people (who can afford fancy accountants to use dirty tricks to avoid paying taxes) to auditing poor people (who can't afford professional help and might make minor mistakes filling in the highly technical and complex tax forms), until today, an IRS audit is just as likely to target low-income earner whose meager pay entitles them to a tax credit is as it is to target a filer from the top one percent of US earners.

Propublica pointed this out in an excellent tax-season report last April, and Senator Ron Wyden [D-OR] took up the issue with the IRS. Now, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig has provided a report to Senator Wyden admitting that his agency targets poor people because they can't afford to appeal the audits, making them cost-effective notches on the IRS's bedpost.

Rettig's report admits that auditing rich people would turn up more fraud and bring in more money for the US government, but says that he can't afford to do so unless Congress restores the IRS's funding. There's bipartisan support for such a measure, but with Sen Mitch McConnell blocking any Senate action, there may not be any more appropriations bills in 2019.

On the one hand, the IRS said, auditing poor taxpayers is a lot easier: The agency uses relatively low-level employees to audit returns for low-income taxpayers who claim the earned income tax credit. The audits — of which there were about 380,000 last year, accounting for 39% of the total the IRS conducted — are done by mail and don’t take too much staff time, either. They are “the most efficient use of available IRS examination resources,” Rettig’s report says.

On the other hand, auditing the rich is hard. It takes senior auditors hours upon hours to complete an exam. What’s more, the letter says, “the rate of attrition is significantly higher among these more experienced examiners.” As a result, the budget cuts have hit this part of the IRS particularly hard.

For now, the IRS says, while it agrees auditing more wealthy taxpayers would be a good idea, without adequate funding there’s nothing it can do. “Congress must fund and the IRS must hire and train appropriate numbers of [auditors] to have appropriately balanced coverage across all income levels,” the report said.

IRS: Sorry, but It’s Just Easier and Cheaper to Audit the Poor [Paul Kiel/Propublica]

(Image: MBisanz, CC BY-SA, modified)

Read the whole story
CallMeWilliam
45 days ago
reply
Reduction in funding for the IRS working as intended.
shanel
46 days ago
reply
And... You know... It keeps the plebes scared and in their place... (Everything is terrible...)
New York, New York
Share this story
Delete

Quid Pro Quo: The Trump Transcript is a Felony, Not Just a High Crime

1 Comment and 2 Shares

Folks, this just is not so hard. Just read the transcript.

It contains an explicit quid pro quo for felony bribery.

Zelensky: “We are ready to continue to cooperate… buy more Javelins” ⁦

Trump⁩: “I would like you to do us a favor though.”

This is linguistically the same as “If you do us a favor…” or “However, you do us a favor…” It is a conditional phrase that creates a condition of exchange.

There are two basic elements of bribery. First, quid pro quo:

A: I would like to you to do me a favor.

B: “I would like you to do us a favor though…”

Check.

Second: Under the bribery statute, 18 USC 201, the “quo” must be “corrupt… influence,” “fraud,” or “a violation of lawful duty.” On page 4 of the transcript:

Trump: “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution…”

The quid pro quo from the top p. 3 moves immediately to Trump’s next point, at the bottom of p. 3/top of page 4: Zelensky should work with Giuliani and AG Barr “to find out about” “Biden’s son” & “Biden.” This is bribery as corrupt influence 18 USC 201(b)(1)(A) and a violation of lawful duties in terms of civil or criminal campaign laws (18 USC 201(b)(1)(C).

I have been critical of those who claimed that the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 was a criminal campaign violation, because it cannot be criminal to talk to foreign nationals about candidates. The Clinton campaign indirectly investigating by having FusionGPS/Christopher Steele talk to foreing nationals cannot be criminal. But there is a world of difference between those conversations vs. pressuring a foreign government’s prosecution force to do your opposition research for you and potentially indict the family of your opponent (especially in context of withholding $391 million in aid).

The harder question here is that of course some quid pro quo exchanges with foreign governments are lawful and valid: Ukraine should pay for the Javelin missiles, and of course Trump could say, “You need to pay for the missiles, though.” If a president thought a terrorist or spy was on American soil, a president could offer arms deals or other support to encourage cooperation. That’s not bribery.

So the key is that asking a foreign government to investigate or prosecute a rival or his family is corrupt in this context. This might be true in any corruption case against any rival (no clear and present danger. Hunter isn’t going to kill anyone). But it seems clear when the case is apparently so weak.

This is unlawful foreign solicitation/coordination. It doesn’t matter if it rises to the level of a criminal violation. It is a civil violation of campaign finance law in itself to solicit a foreign government to conduct opposition research for your campaign, especially given the record of Trump’s 2016 campaign (which I documented here as criminal by Manafort and Gates, and would at least be a civil violation by the campaign).

Key reminder: “High crimes and misdemeanors” for impeachment ARE NOT limited to felonies. The Framers purposely used the English phrase for abuse of power, not felonies. If people argue this transcript is bad but not criminal, they are missing the point and moving goalposts.

In terms of evidence of consciousness of guilt:

The call took place on July 25, with Trump saying AG Barr & Giuliani were in on this plot. A week before: Trump order Mulvaney to block $391M from Ukraine. 3 days after: Trump forces out the uncooperative DNI Coats for his hack in the House, Congressman Ratcliffe. Many officials are implicated.

Five final observations:
1) Some people say Trump’s Biden request came after the quid pro quo “though.” This is wrong, because Trump linked a first thing (CrowdStrike and “the server, they say Ukraine has it”) and “the other thing,” Biden, which came immediately after.
But let’s think about Trump’s CrowdStrike and “server” reference. What’s that about? That’s about the 2016 Russia hack of the Clinton server. Trump is trying to get Ukraine to produce evidence (propaganda) about the 2016 campaign to dispute the claim that Russia was behind the hacking, as part of a crazy conspiracy theory that Manafort’s enemies in Ukraine set him up. So even this effort by itself about CrowdStrike and the server is an effort manufacture campaign propaganda for 2020.
2) This bribery transcript is so damning and criminal, and yet the White House just released it without a fight. It’s hard not to wonder what must be in the IG whistleblower report, Trump’s tax returns, and Trump’s bank records…
3) If Trump, Barr, & Giuliani had to take such risks to press Ukraine to investigate, it suggests the DOJ and FBI resisted their corrupt pressure for a partisan prosecution of the Bidens. That says a ton about the weakness of Trump’s lies & the strength of our rule of law…
4) Impeach Barr. It is obvious Barr must recuse himself. It is equally obvious Barr will resist such calls… But impeaching Barr for such conduct either forces him to recuse or highlights his unethical behavior if he won’t. At least it scrutinizes his conduct.

5) Emoluments! It’s not just the felony quid pro quo… There is also an explicit and sad #Emoluments suck-up by Zelensky on p 4-5:

“The last time I traveled to the United States… I stayed at the Trump Tower.”

Courts: take note of this causal nexus for plaintiffs’ standing and corruption.

Bonus: is this what Giuliani and Trump meant when they said the Take Care clause gabe the president a duty to outsource prosecution to the Ukrainian government?



Read the whole story
shanel
52 days ago
reply
Hmmmm...
New York, New York
Share this story
Delete

How to Boil the Perfect Egg

4 Comments and 5 Shares

As a mostly stay-at-home dad responsible for all the meals in our household, I depend on a supply of boiled eggs in the refrigerator — ready to be added to soups, salads, stews, sandwiches, stir-fries and tacos — as an essential part of my planning.

Years ago, in an effort to answer a perennial question — what’s the best way to boil an egg? — I hatched a plan using the only method I know: lots and lots of testing.

It was a multidecade endeavor. The series of tests I conducted variously as a kitchen monkey at Cook’s Illustrated magazine, as recipe czar at the website Serious Eats and in researching my cookbook produced good data, but none of it felt definitive. Further home experimentations (there have been weeks when my wife, Adri, begged me to stop serving egg salad for dinner) have left unanswered questions and conflicting results.

Do older eggs really peel more easily? (The internet insists they do.) Can an ice bath prevent green yolks? Is there anything the Instant Pot can’t do better? I simply did not have enough data to say for certain.

With that in mind, for my first column on cooking and science for The New York Times, I decided to undertake my greatest egg-peeling experiment yet, and I have finally come up with some answers.

Ninety-six volunteers came through my restaurant, Wursthall, in San Mateo, Calif., in August to peel and taste more than 700 eggs, cooked with various methods, making this — as verified with a cursory search online — the largest-ever double-blind egg-boiling-and-peeling experiment in the history of the universe. (If anyone from Guinness is reading, I have pretty extensive documentation.)

The eggs were ranked and timed to determine ease of peeling, then examined for flaws large (whites that were ripped or torn) and small (whites that were lightly pitted). Peeled eggs were tasted in pre-portioned, unlabeled, single-bite samples. When visual differences between the eggs may have affected the tasters’ judgments, we blindfolded them.

For some experiments — such as a test to determine how much eggs from true pasture-raised hens differ from the eggs that come 15-dozen-in-a-crate at Costco — I administered a triangle test. (The taster is given three samples. One of them is different. Her job is to tell us which is different.)

All of these tests were administered double-blind, meaning that neither the subjects nor the test administrators knew which eggs were which. Using the results, I designed a few subsequent experiments for another day of testing before drawing conclusions.

I have bad news: There is no way to guarantee eggs that peel 100 percent of the time. But if 87 percent or higher is a number you can work with, let’s crack on.

First, let me share my idea of a perfect boiled egg: It should be tender throughout, even when fully hard-boiled. The white should not be rubbery, nor the yolk chalky or green. And above all, it should peel easily. There are few frustrations greater than watching a chunky divot of egg white dislodge itself as you claw clumsily at the shell.

Here’s the real trick, and it confirms the data I’ve been collecting for years now: By far the most important factor in determining whether a boiled egg will peel cleanly or not is the temperature at which it starts cooking. Starting eggs in cold water causes egg-white proteins to coagulate slowly, bonding tightly to the inner membrane of the shell. The difference is night and day: Cold-water eggs show nearly nine times more large flaws and double the number of small flaws.

There are two stovetop cooking methods that allow preheating for a hot start, and produce eggs that are equally easy to peel: boiling and steaming.

But taste tests showed that steamed eggs were more tender than their boiled counterparts. This is because steam is gentler than boiling water, allowing eggs to cook through without any hint of rubberiness in the whites or chalkiness in the yolks. Steaming an egg may take a minute longer than boiling it, but you save that time and more during setup: Bringing an inch of water to a boil is much faster than bringing a whole pot of water to a boil.

After testing three of the more popular time and temperature combinations on the Instant Pot (i.e., a pressure cooker), I unfortunately can’t recommend using one. It’s not any faster or easier than steaming eggs; the eggs are no easier to peel; and the time it takes various models of pressure cooker to achieve cooking pressure (and thus start the countdown timer) can vary widely, which makes the method unreliable.

Moreover, blindfolded tasters confirmed that the whites were noticeably tougher (given the same internal yolk temperature). This makes sense, given the high cooking temperature achieved in a pressure cooker.

Also not recommended: the briefly popular technique of baking eggs in their shells in a muffin tin.

Some variables had little to no effect. Adding small amounts of vinegar, baking soda or salt to your water is pointless. None offer advantages for peeling, while at the extremes, vinegar and baking soda produce off-flavors and colors (ghostly blue egg whites!).

The only difference between fridge-cold eggs and room temperature eggs is that room temperature eggs will cook about a minute faster.

What about freshness? Through my neighbor’s connections with an underground cabal of backyard chicken owners, I wrangled over 100 eggs, from straight-from-the-oviduct to two days old, from backyard flocks across San Mateo. I compared them with supermarket eggs that were at least two weeks old. (Every carton of eggs sold in the United States is stamped with a three-digit number from 1 to 365, representing the day of the year they were packed.)

Turns out that age doesn’t make much of a difference either. Even eggs still warm from the hen’s body peeled just as easily as the most grizzled specimen. (Taste tests also showed that most folks could not tell the difference between backyard eggs and supermarket eggs, and those who could were split on which were better.)

Pricking the fat end of an egg with a pushpin doesn’t affect how easily an egg peels, but it can prevent thin-shelled eggs from cracking under the pressure of gas expansion during boiling. It will also reduce the large dimple you often find at the fat end of the cooked egg, caused by the impression of an air pocket located there.

Immediately dunking your cooked eggs in an ice bath will have a similar dimple-reducing effect, but it also makes them a little more difficult to peel. This result surprised me, as previous smaller-scale tests had suggested a slight advantage in peeling eggs that were iced; but when a mountain of new data doesn’t fit your previous hypothesis, you change your hypothesis.

An ice bath also did not help reduce the incidence of the sulfurous green patina around overcooked egg yolks — eggs are so small that there is negligible carry-over cooking. If the yolk is green, it would have been green ice bath or no.

Even with evidence, I don’t expect everyone to adopt the steaming technique, and that’s fine. If you’ve got a method that works for you, stick with it (even if it’s the Instant Pot).

Science can deepen your understanding of the interaction between heat and molecules, between taste and pleasure. It can undoubtedly make you a better cook. But there is far more to cooking than the pure science of the craft. I’m not here to tell you how to cook or to try and change your traditions and habits; my only job is to show you the data, demonstrate the science and deliver a tasty recipe or two.

Whether you use that information to change your everyday cooking, or perhaps just to volunteer unsolicited cooking tips to a perfectly capable brunch host, I hope you find something useful.

Recipe: Perfectly Peelable Steam-Boiled Eggs | What to Do With All Those Boiled Eggs

J. Kenji López-Alt is the author of “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” and the culinary adviser for the website Serious Eats. He is also the chef and co-owner of the restaurant Wursthall in San Mateo, Calif. His new column, about science and home cooking, will appear monthly.

Read the whole story
shanel
54 days ago
reply
Gonna try this.
New York, New York
Share this story
Delete
3 public comments
fancycwabs
50 days ago
reply
This is an impressive technique, but the best way to boil eggs is to let someone else do it and buy them already boiled from the supermarket.
Nashville, Tennessee
fxer
55 days ago
reply
Been using this method for a few years now after switching from the Alton brown boiling method. Works fine can’t say it’s better or worse.
Bend, Oregon
satadru
55 days ago
reply
What would the sous vide variation on this be? It seems you want high heat initially to keep the egg white from sticking to the shell. So high heat for 1 minute and then sous vide?
New York, NY

How Street Fighter II's Computer Opponents Cheat To Kick Your Ass

1 Comment and 2 Shares

Have you ever plopped a quarter in the Street Fighter II machine at your local pizza joint and readied up with your favorite character, only to find yourself bashed and bloodied by the CPU just a few rounds later? Perhaps you said something to yourself about the computer cheating, only to get heckled by your friends.…

Read more...

Read the whole story
shanel
54 days ago
reply
13yr old me has been vindicated!
New York, New York
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories