Link Blog: March 22, 2019

If it’s not absurd, it’s depressing… but this week, it’s probably both.

Privacy is becoming a luxury: what data leaks are like for the poor. Poorer people are less likely to have the time or money to fight back against data leaks, like the one from the Seattle Housing Authority last month, potentially making them bigger targets, since attackers know they’re more likely to get away with it.

Floriday’s war on drugs made chocolate and cheese illegal. This is what happens when policy is decided by people who know nothing about science.

The Government Is Using the Most Vulnerable People to Test Facial Recognition Software: NIST’s “Facial Recognition Verification Testing program depends on images of children who have been exploited for child pornography; U.S. visa applicants, especially those from Mexico; and people who have been arrested and are now deceased. Additional images are drawn from the Department of Homeland Security documentation of travelers boarding aircraft in the U.S. and individuals booked on suspicion of criminal activity.” Obviously, individuals probably never consented to the use of their likeness for this purpose.

The Companies Vying to Build the Border Wall Seem Shady as Hell: From 2018, but still relevant. The companies bidding on Trump’s border wall catastrophe have concerning pasts, from claiming to mentor minority-owned businesses (and not really doing it) to actual prison time.

California jury finds Monsanto’s Roundup caused a man’s cancer: this is the second civil suit where the company has been found at fault for not warning people of the risks.

Court Says VA Was Wrong in Denying Vietnam Veterans Benefits: in February, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the VA’s decision to deny disability benefits to Navy veterans who were sickened by Agent Orange exposure. The decision could affect 90,000 vets, as well as their children who may also have been sickened or disabled by AO exposure.

For Larger Customers, Eating Out Is Still a Daunting Experience: “For people who identify as large, plus-size or fat, dining out can be a social and physical minefield. Chairs with arms or impossibly small seats leave marks and bruises. Meals are spent in pain, or filled with worry that a flimsy chair might collapse.” A timely article about what it’s like to go out to eat as a larger person, and what’s happening to improve the experience.

MuckRock’s annual FOIA March Madness is here again: and there are stickers!

Link Blog: March 15, 2019

The Ides of March: a short but relevant history lesson about the Roman calendar.

Me and White Supremacy Workbook: Layla Saad turned her her viral Instagram challenge into an email format: “the Me And White Supremacy Workbook will lead you through a journey of personal reflection and deep shadow work. The purpose of this workbook is to educate people with white privilege as to their internalised racism, and facilitate personal and collective change to help dismantle the oppressive system of white supremacy.”

Observations on Burnout: A tech-leaning anatomy of burnout that applies to plenty of other industries, as well. This sarcastic/ironic line about what keeps people stuck in the rut that leads to burnout hits very close to home when it comes to my past experiences: “In short, the [worker] should never feel like their actions have any actual positive impact on the state of things but should have just enough hope that maybe the next time will be different.” And to be fair, I found some of the advice frustrating: it says to help recover from burnout, to address health issues that you’ve been ignoring. Which is reasonable advice, but it disregards the fact that many people burning out in the first place may have been doing so because they can’t afford or don’t have access to mental or physical healthcare.

The Western Erasure of African Tragedy: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed last week, killing all 152 souls on board. The accident was a tragedy, and the same kind of plane (a Boeing 737 Max 8) that crashed in Indonesia in October, but the Western media is (as usual) choosing to highlight the loss of non-African lives, or to question the safety of the airline itself. (Ethiopian Airlines is no less safe than any other airline.)

Inequity in consumption of goods and services adds to racial–ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure. A research article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States highlighting environmental racism. From the abstract: “We show that, in the United States, PM2.5 exposure is disproportionately caused by consumption of goods and services mainly by the non-Hispanic white majority, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic minorities. On average, non-Hispanic whites experience a “pollution advantage”: They experience ∼17% less air pollution exposure than is caused by their consumption. Blacks and Hispanics on average bear a“pollution burden” of 56% and 63% excess exposure, respectively, relative to the exposure caused by their consumption.”

IBM didn’t get permission from subjects before their photos were fed into its facial-recognition system: Sadly, but unsurprisingly, IBM used Flickr photos for its facial recognition research. Spoiler alert: plenty of other companies don’t either. The sad reality is that if photos of you have ever been online, they could’ve been archived into data sets for these purposes. The sadder reality is that even if you expressly do not consent or opt out (which is difficult, if not impossible, to do), we don’t really know if our wishes are being honored.

Hubble captured an image of galaxies colliding, 230 million light years away. The image is fascinating, but it’s also fascinating that, according to the article, the collision was “first spotted by astronomer William Herschel on June 11, 1784, who thought it was a single oddball galaxy with an exceptionally strange shape.”

60 Minutes covers the court case where a group of kids are suing the U.S. government to halt the use of fossil fuels. (Fair warning: the video auto-plays. A transcript is below the video.) The plaintiffs have amassed 50 years of evidence showing that government officials have known about the dangers of burning fossil fuels and its impact on climate change for over 50 years, as well as 50 years of evidence showing the government hasn’t done anything substantial to address it.

Indian tribe revives heirloom seeds for health and climate security. “The Dongria Kondhs, devotees of their mountain gods in the remote hills of eastern India, are custodians of dozens of vanishing seed varieties. With the region in an agrarian crisis due to recurrent droughts and erratic rainfall, the tribe is on a mission to return to its farming roots and resuscitate long-lost heirloom crops.”

Remove Google fonts from the most popular WP themes: the themes I have experience with are a bit too complex for the suggestions here, but this is an awesome place to start. For this site’s current theme (a heavily simplified GeneratePress), the Disable Google Fonts plugin did the trick.

Link blog: March 8, 2019

I never know whether to title this with a date or a summary.

New Moon, a dark theme for web development. Created by the talented and always-helpful Tania Rascia, this dark theme can be applied to your text editor (VS Code, Brackets, Sublime, or Atom), Chrome, and iTerm2. I’m red-green colorblind and I’ve enjoyed this theme more than other dark themes.

Is This the End of Recycling? After sending countless shipments of poorly-sorted trash to China, China has finally started refusing our garbage-disguised-as-recycling. While it’s nice for consumers to consume less so there’s less waste produced, the onus is really on corporations and manufacturers to produce more responsibly. It’s time to radically rethink our packaging and what we do with it when it’s empty.

The Romani Cultural and Arts Company is a Welsh nonprofit organization created by Romani people to encourage arts and community engagement in order to fight racism against the Romani people.

Sex Redefined: The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that. (2015, and forever relevant.) A woman got pregnant in her 40s and was surprised to learn through a routine test that she has both XX and XY chromosomes, proving that gender is not as black and white (or pink and blue) as the creators of “gender reveal parties” and bathroom legislation would like us to believe.

On Likability. “I think, perhaps, one reason — maybe the primary reason — that the world tries so hard to pressure us to be likable (and to punish us when we aren’t) is because they are afraid we will realize that if we don’t need anyone to like us we can be any way we want. We can tell any story. We can tell the truth.”

Daily Hugz is a sanctuary for homeless and abused animals, and offers a safe play space for the children of Palestine. This site is full of adorable photos, and you can support them financially or by ordering some of the most special olive oil money can buy.