Helen Czerski: The fascinating physics of everyday life | February 2017 at TEDxManchester

Physics doesn’t just happen in a fancy lab — it happens when you push a piece of buttered toast off the table or drop a couple of raisins in a fizzy drink or watch a coffee spill dry. Become a more interesting dinner guest as physicist Helen Czerski presents various concepts in physics you can become familiar with using everyday things found in your kitchen.

Washington Just Sued a Giant Private Prison Company for Paying Immigrant Workers $1 Per Day – Madison Pauly Sep. 20, 2017 7:03 PM

Some detainees were allegedly compensated for their labor with “chicken, potato chips, soda, and/or candy.”

Detainees inside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WashingtonTed S. Warren/AP

Thousands of immigrant detainees were paid $1 per day or, in some cases, with extra food as compensation for keeping one of the country’s largest for-profit immigration detention centers running, according to a lawsuit filed today by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The lawsuit targets the GEO Group, one of the country’s two most profitable private prison companies, over the controversial work program, which Ferguson says has violated the state’s minimum wage policy since it was implemented in 2005.

Each day, Tacoma’s Northwest Detention Center houses up to 1,575 detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody as they wait for deportation or to appear before a judge to resolve their immigration case. While in custody, the detainees can opt into a voluntary work program in which, according to the complaint, they may be assigned to prepare, cook, or serve food, operate the laundry service, clean living areas and bathrooms, paint walls, or buff floors. Detainees perform “virtually all non-security functions” at the facility, the AG’s press release says. No matter how many hours they work, GEO pays them $1 per day or “in snack food such as chicken, potato chips, soda, and/or candy,” the complaint alleges.

Meanwhile, ICE pays GEO $115.95 per detainee per day to hold the vast majority of the people in the Tacoma detention center.

Ferguson is accusing GEO of violating Washington state’s minimum wage laws, which currently require workers to be paid a minimum of $11 per hour. He claims that by systematically underpaying detainees, GEO profited from illegal activity. While inmates and residents of state, county, or municipal detention centers are exempted from the minimum wage under state law, Ferguson argues that the detainees held in the private, for profit-detention center are not exempt—and that GEO now has to pay up.

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The United States’ Problem With Financial Secrecy – By Casey Michel September 20, 2017

KELLY CARR / REUTERS The headquarters of incorporation specialists Laughlin Associates in Carson City, Nevada, August 2011.


The clients of the former arms dealer Viktor Bout spanned the globe. By shuttling weapons to warlords in Liberia and a dictator in Zaïre, among others, Bout became the most notorious gunrunner of the past quarter century. As the former State Department official Witney Schneidman put it, he was also the “personification of evil.” But although the Tajik-born arms trafficker dealt with clients from around the world, there was one place he chose to set up the shell companies he used to expand his business: the United States. (Bout was convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2011 and is now serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois.)

Washington has provided the world with some of the foremost tools for combating crime and grand corruption. Its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, for instance, has frozen some $3 billion in ill-gotten wealth since 2010. Yet over the past decade, a handful of states—primarily Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming—have undermined the federal government’s efforts by making it easy for people such as Bout to use U.S.-based shell companies to protect their loot. The United States’ domestic stability has helped these states attract kleptocrats and criminal groups from around the world.

Thanks to the efforts of these states’ governments to turn their locales into offshore havens, the United States has become one of the most important destinations for offshore ownership vehicles, enabling tax evasion, corruption, and crime. In the first decade of this century, Delaware even hosted anonymous shell companies that had helped siphon off millions of dollars of international aid meant to help maintainSoviet-era nuclear facilities in Russia and eastern Europe.

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SEC Discloses Edgar Corporate Filing System Was Hacked in 2016 – Dave Michaels Updated Sept. 20, 2017 11:10 p.m. ET

Breach may have allowed trading that profited from nonpublic information, regulator says

The SEC disclosed hackers penetrated its electronic system for storing public-company filings

The SEC disclosed hackers penetrated its electronic system for storing public-company filings Photo: jonathan ernst/Reuters


Dave Michaels

WASHINGTON—The top U.S. markets regulator disclosed Wednesday that hackers penetrated its electronic system for storing public-company filings last year and may have traded on the information.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s chairman, Jay Clayton, revealed the breach in an unusual and lengthy statement issued Wednesday evening that didn’t provide many details about the intrusion, including the extent of any illegal trading.

The SEC said it was investigating the source of the hack, which exploited a software vulnerability in a part of the agency’s Edgar system, a comprehensive database of filings made by thousands of public companies and other financial firms regulated by the SEC.

The commission said the hack was detected in 2016, but that regulators didn’t learn about the possibility of related illicit trading until August, when they started an investigation and began cooperating with what the SEC called “appropriate authorities.”

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment on the SEC disclosure.

The commission’s disclosure follows a major breach of Equifax Inc. that affected 143 million Americans and warnings from executives of the New York Stock Exchange and Bats Global Markets Inc. that a planned data repository of all U.S. equity and options orders could become a juicy target for hackers.

“Cybersecurity is critical to the operations of our markets and the risks are significant and, in many cases, systemic,” Mr. Clayton said in a written statement. “We also must recognize—in both the public and private sectors, including the SEC—that there will be intrusions, and that a key component of cyber risk management is resilience and recovery.”

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Snopes and the Search for Facts in a Post-Fact World


It was early March, not yet two months into the Trump administration, and the new Not-Normal was setting in: It continued to be the administration’s position, as enunciated by Sean Spicer, that the inauguration had attracted the “largest audience ever”; barely a month had passed since Kellyanne Conway brought the fictitious “Bowling Green massacre” to national attention; and just for kicks, on March 4, the president alerted the nation by tweet, “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.”

If the administration had tossed the customs and niceties of American politics to the wind, there was one clearly identifiable constant: mendacity. “Fake news” accusations flew back and forth every day, like so many spitballs in a third-grade classroom.

Feeling depressed about the conflation of fiction and fact in the first few months of 2017, I steered a car into the hills of Calabasas to meet with one person whom many rely on to set things straight. This is an area near Los Angeles best known for its production of Kardashians, but there were no McMansions on the street where I was headed, only old, gnarled trees and a few modest houses. I spotted the one I was looking for—a ramshackle bungalow—because the car in the driveway gave it away. Its license plate read SNOPES.

David Mikkelson, the publisher of the fact-checking site Snopes.com, answered the door himself. He was wearing khakis and a polo shirt, his hair at an awkward length, somewhere between late-­career Robert Redford and early-­career Steve Carell. He had been working alone at the kitchen table, with just a laptop, a mouse, and the internet. The house, which he was getting ready to sell, was sparsely furnished, the most prominent feature being built-in bookcases filled with ancient hardcovers—“there’s a whole shelf devoted to the Titanic and other maritime disasters,” Mikkelson told me—and board games, his primary hobby.

Since about 2010, this house has passed for a headquarters, as Snopes has no formal offices, just 16 people sitting at their laptops in different rooms across the country, trying to swim against the tide of spin, memes, and outright lies in the American public sphere. Just that morning Mikkelson and his staff had been digging into a new presidential tweet of dubious facticity: “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!” Trump had the correct total, but the overwhelming number of those detainees had been released during the George W. Bush administration. “There’s a whole lot of missing context to just that 122 number,” Mikkelson said.

There are other fact-checking outfits, like PolitiFact, which is operated by the Tampa Bay Times, or FactCheck.org at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. But Snopes has kicked around the internet since 1994—which makes it almost as old as what we once called the World Wide Web. In this age of untruth, it has become an indispensable resource. Should your friend’s sister start a conspiracy trash fire in a Facebook comment thread, Snopes is a reliable form of extinguisher. Because of this reputation, Snopes was listed as a partner in a Facebook fact-­checking effort announced last fall after the social media giant acknowledged it had become a conduit for fake news. Potentially false stories could be flagged by users and an algorithm, and then organizations like Snopes, ABC News, and the Associated Press would be tasked with investigating them.

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The Paris Agreement Dispute Is a Distraction. The Real Battle Is Playing Out in the EPA. –   Kate Aronoff September 20 2017, 11:51 a.m.

Photo: Alain Apaydin/Sipa USA/AP

For anyone who’s been following the fate of the United States’ involvement in the Paris agreement, the main question surrounding it recently has been pretty clear: Will he or won’t he?

Conflicting reports over the weekend — sparked by a vague Wall Street Journal storyon Saturday — alleged that the Trump administration was reconsidering its June decision to withdraw from the landmark climate deal. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster denied it, only to be upstaged Sunday morning by Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, whose department would theoretically oversee either a renegotiation or a withdrawal. On this week’s Face the Nation, Tillerson said that President Donald Trump was “open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue.”

In what’s being taken as a for-now final word on the matter, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn emphasized Monday that the U.S. will leave the agreement “unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country,” doubling down on the line the administration has held since its initial withdrawal announcement.

This weekend’s mixed signals kept reporters busy. Confusion around the agreement may even have put climate change in the news more than the string of hurricanes that have battered the Caribbean and southern United States in recent weeks, the strengths of which can be linked to rising temperatures and sea levels. Materially, though, the Paris agreement’s future in the U.S. may be one of the least important aspects of Trump’s climate policy. It may not even have that big of an impact on the agreement itself.

As conflicting messages shoot back and forth, other members of the administration are quietly unraveling a slew of policies, precedents, and regulations in ways that could make it much more difficult to plan for a low-carbon future after they’re gone. Considering the U.S. accounts for around one-fifth of global emissions, these moves could also make it harder to curb warming worldwide.

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