Thousands in Cameroon protest against Boko Haram – February 28, 2015 3:46PM ET

Thousands of people marched in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde on Saturday to protest against Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency and support the central African nation’s army, which is fighting alongside its neighbors in the region to defeat the armed group.

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Organizers said the march was aimed at informing the public, especially in the southern part of Cameroon, about the threat posed by Boko Haram, which has carried out regular cross-border raids in the far north. Yaounde is located in the central region of the country.

“It was important to tell Cameroonians that we are at war and a part of the country is suffering,” said Gubai Gatama, a newspaper editor, who was among the march’s organizers. “About 150,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.”

In addition to its own citizens forced to flee the violence, thousands of refugees have poured into Cameroon from northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is seeking to carve out a separate state. “Some 170 schools in Cameroon’s northern region have been closed,” Gatama said.

Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency in Nigeria has spread to neighboring countries, where the group has launched attacks over the past year, burning villages and kidnapping residents.

The other Lake Chad region nations threatened by Boko Haram — Cameroon, Niger and Chad — have launched a joint offensive to quell the rebellion and claim to have retaken territory from group in recent weeks.

Muhamadou Labara Awal, 27, was among those who marched in Yaounde, chanting and waving the flags of the regional coalition. “It was important for me to be here because I’m not a soldier to be deployed to Fotokol,” Awal said, referring to a northern town regularly targeted by Boko Haram. “The only way I could pay homage to our troops was to be here.”

Organizers estimated the march attracted about 5,000 people.

The solidarity march was also to discourage Cameroonian youths from joining Boko Haram, said journalist Ndi Eugene Ndi.

About 200 Cameroonian soldiers have been killed in the fighting, according to the demonstration’s organizers.

“Our children, our brothers, our parents giving their lives up there (in northern Cameroon), giving their lives for our sake, it is important, very, very important to come out to show our support for them,” said Buma Yvonne, who lost his younger brother in the battle against Boko Haram.

Wire services

Uber security breach revealed 50,000 driver’s license numbers – Al Jazeera February 28, 2015 4:13PM ET

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A security breach at Uber, a ride-hailing service, may have disclosed the names and driver’s license numbers of about 50,000 drivers across multiple states, the company said in a statement on Friday.

The data breach involved current and former Uber drivers, and the company has notified attorneys general in states where those drivers live, including California.

“To date, we have not received any reports of actual misuse of any information as a result of this incident,” the company said. However, Uber advised drivers to monitor their credit reports for fraudulent transactions.

The company has raised more than $4 billion from prominent venture capital firms such as Benchmark and Google Ventures, valuing Uber at $40 billion and making it the most valuable startup in the United States.

Uber also filed a lawsuit in a federal court in San Francisco on Friday against the unnamed individual who accessed the company’s files. Such litigation can be used to help uncover who committed the breach.

Uber said the breach occurred in May 2014 and was discovered in September. The company said it changed database access protocols and began an investigation.


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Sympathy For The Devils – Ann Powers FEBRUARY 28, 2015 10:20 AM ET

The Lonely Existence Of The Outrageous Musician In An Age Of Civility

Josh Tillman's latest album as Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear, is a sincere and shocking catalog of the main character's adventures in sex and love.

Josh Tillman’s latest album as Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear, is a sincere and shocking catalog of the main character’s adventures in sex and love. Emma Tillman/Courtesy of the artist

It’s been five years since Kanye West raised his glass to “the a—holes” in the song “Runaway,” a poetic taxonomy of bad behavior that formed the emotional center of his masterwork My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It’s a sad song about romantic failure, but also a strong statement connecting West to popular music’s longstanding practice of being dangerously outrageous. From Jim Morrison to James Brown to Morrissey to Courtney Love, rock and soul has housed huge personalities who upended and offended the bourgeoisie within performances that melded messily with larger-than-life personal styles. Today, however, the big bad personality in pop has mostly receded. Troublemaking characters still ruffle feathers — the men’s-rights poster boy Ariel Pink, the often problematically frank rapper Azealia Banks — but these Twitter warriors don’t really register as major figures. Today’s pop elite tends to be much more careful, tamping out feuds as soon as they erupt and dancing together at music industry pseudo-events to dissipate any real tension. A few stars inhabit the pose of the bad girl or boy in ways that resonate: Rihanna‘s made it the center of her complex and distanced choreography, and in those realms of rock that appeal to the youngest fans, bands like Falling in Reverse (whose latest single, “Just Like You,” has a lyric that echoes West’s) tout impudence as a self-esteem booster. But civility seems more marketable today, and therefore it’s favored. Even West might be wondering if he had the wrong mentality as he sits down to a West Village bistro bite with his former scorn victim, Taylor Swift.

Even Kim Gordon’s much-discussed dissection of Lana Del Rey, a justified rant if ever there was one, seems to be ending in a wash of reasonable talk. Gordon, the musician, conceptual artist and fashion trendsetter best known as the bassist in the now-defunct, longtime reigning indie band Sonic Youth, recently published her memoir Girl in a Band; among other trenchant opinions expressed therein, she originally included a paragraph suggesting that the theatrically depressive balladeer Del Rey should just “off herself” instead of playing at self-destructiveness merely for the cameras and in the recording studio. After backtracking some, and publishing a much more benign takedown in the book’s final version, Gordon has clarified her comments in ways that are smart and refreshingly withering, comparing Del Rey to the 58-year-old rock crooner Chris Isaak (a funny swipe, though somewhat unfair to Isaak, who does what he does impeccably) and, like a serious liberal feminist, urging Del Rey to “take responsibility” for her weird and affected masochist persona. Gordon’s ripostes may seem unsisterly, but they aren’t unwarranted: As a thirty-year veteran of edgy rock and art scenes known for confrontational risk-taking, and an intimate of several particularly tragic lost souls from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Kurt Cobain to Mike Kelley, Gordon has every right to be repulsed by Del Rey’s caricatures of pain — and to be rude about it. She has a vision of how popular music should encounter and communicate emotional extremes, she’s been honing it for decades, and she knows what rings false to her.

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Paul takes CPAC straw poll gold; Walker surges to second place – By Jonathan EasleyFebruary 28, 2015, 05:19 pm

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won his third consecutive straw poll victory at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday.

But it was Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) who surged the most, coming in a close second with 21.4 percent behind Paul’s 25.7 percent among the field of 17 potential GOP contenders.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took third with 11.5 percent, followed by Dr. Ben Carson at 11.4 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 8.3 percent. All of the other candidates pulled less than 5 percent.

The annual straw poll at the CPAC conference is hardly scientific, measuring hardcore activists and attendees. It has typically not been predicatave of the eventual nominee, especially so early out, but it does signal who is rising and who is dropping with the conservative base.

Paul, long the favorite of the libertarian-leaning event, thrilled conservatives on Thursday with a sermon-style speech on small-government and liberty.

“It’s time for a new president,” Paul declared, eliciting chants of “President Paul!” from the conference goers.

That chant erupted again inside the Potomac Ballroom at the Gaylord National Convention Center when news broke that Paul had won the straw poll for the third consecutive year.

“I am humbled by the enthusiastic support and encouragement I received this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference,” Paul said in a statement. “Our party is filled with constitutional conservatives who have chosen to stand with me for a third consecutive straw poll victory…I plan on doing my part and I hope you will join me as I continue to make the GOP a bigger, better and bolder party.”

The Kentucky senator is the perennial favorite at the grassroots conference, and he was well represented once again by young voters who traveled in from across the country to show support and an organization effort by his team.

More than 3,007 conference-goers voted in the poll.

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The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress BY ADAM ROGERS 02.26.15

The original image is in the middle. At left, white-balanced as if the dress is white-gold. At right, white-balanced to blue-black.

The original image is in the middle. At left, white-balanced as if the dress is white-gold. At right, white-balanced to blue-black. swiked

Not since Monica Lewinsky was a White House intern has one blue dress been the source of so much consternation.

(And yes, it’s blue.)

The fact that a single image could polarize the entire Internet into two aggressive camps is, let’s face it, just another Thursday. But for the past half-day, people across social media have been arguing about whether a picture depicts a perfectly nice bodycon dress as blue with black lace fringe or white with gold lace fringe. And neither side will budge. This fight is about more than just social media—it’s about primal biology and the way human eyes and brains have evolved to see color in a sunlit world.

Light enters the eye through the lens—different wavelengths corresponding to different colors. The light hits the retina in the back of the eye where pigments fire up neural connections to the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes those signals into an image. Critically, though, that first burst of light is made of whatever wavelengths are illuminating the world, reflecting off whatever you’re looking at. Without you having to worry about it, your brain figures out what color light is bouncing off the thing your eyes are looking at, and essentially subtracts that color from the “real” color of the object. “Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance,” says Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington. “But I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” (Neitz sees white-and-gold.)


Usually that system works just fine. This image, though, hits some kind of perceptual boundary. That might be because of how people are wired. Human beings evolved to see in daylight, but daylight changes color. That chromatic axis varies from the pinkish red of dawn, up through the blue-white of noontime, and then back down to reddish twilight. “What’s happening here is your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis,” says Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist who studies color and vision at Wellesley College. “So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black.” (Conway sees blue and orange, somehow.)

We asked our ace photo and design team to do a little work with the image in Photoshop, to uncover the actual red-green-blue composition of a few pixels. That, we figured, would answer the question definitively. And it came close.

In the image as presented on, say, BuzzFeed, Photoshop tells us that the places some people see as blue do indeed track as blue. But…that probably has more to do with the background than the actual color. “Look at your RGB values. R 93, G 76, B 50. If you just looked at those numbers and tried to predict what color that was, what would you say?” Conway asks.

So…kind of orange-y?

“Right,” says Conway. “But you’re doing this very bad trick, which is projecting those patches on a white background. Show that same patch on a neutral black background and I bet it would appear orange.” He ran it through Photoshop, too, and now figures that the dress is actually blue and orange.

The point is, your brain tries to interpolate a kind of color context for the image, and then spits out an answer for the color of the dress. Even Neitz, with his weird white-and-gold thing, admits that the dress is probably blue. “I actually printed the picture out,” he says. “Then I cut a little piece out and looked at it, and completely out of context it’s about halfway in between, not this dark blue color. My brain attributes the blue to the illuminant. Other people attribute it to the dress.”

Even WIRED’s own photo team—driven briefly into existential spasms of despair by how many of them saw a white-and-gold dress—eventually came around to the contextual, color-constancy explanation. “I initially thought it was white and gold,” says Neil Harris, our senior photo editor. “When I attempted to white-balance the image based on that idea, though, it didn’t make any sense.” He saw blue in the highlights, telling him that the white he was seeing was blue, and the gold was black. And when Harris reversed the process, balancing to the darkest pixel in the image, the dress popped blue and black. “It became clear that the appropriate point in the image to balance from is the black point,” Harris says.

So when context varies, so will people’s visual perception. “Most people will see the blue on the white background as blue,” Conway says. “But on the black background some might see it as white.” He even speculated, perhaps jokingly, that the white-gold prejudice favors the idea of seeing the dress under strong daylight. “I bet night owls are more likely to see it as blue-black,” Conway says.

At least we can all agree on one thing: The people who see the dress as white are utterly, completely wrong.

Civilians Return to Debaltseve: Russian Roulette (Dispatch 96) – Vice News Published on Feb 27, 2015

After a month of heavy fighting, the pro-Russia separatists of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) finally took the strategically important rail hub town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine.

In early January, the DNR had launched a winter offensive on Ukrainian positions, seizing the Donetsk airport and attacking Ukrainian checkpoints across the line of control separating the two sides. Once the airport had fallen, the DNR focused its attention on Debaltseve, surrounding the town on three sides and pounding it with artillery for four straight weeks. The attack killed dozens and forced thousands of residents to flee.

VICE News traveled to Debaltseve a few days after it fell to the DNR to speak to some of the civilians who were slowly returning to their town, which now lies in ruins.

Helder Guimarães: A magical search for a coincidence – Filmed March 2014 at TED2014

Small coincidences. They happen all the time and yet, they pass us by because we are not looking for them. In a delightfully subtle trick, magician Helder Guimarães demonstrates with a deck of cards, a dollar bill and a stuffed giraffe.

Jeb Bush Takes 2016 Show Into Unfriendly Territory At CPAC – S.V. DÁTE FEBRUARY 27, 2015 4:03 AM ET

For close to a decade, Jeb Bush’s audiences have almost exclusively been people who have paid good money to hear him speak.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addresses the audience at his last Conservative Political Action Conference appearance in March 2013. Bush is to appear again Friday, as he considers a potential 2016 presidential campaign.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addresses the audience at his last Conservative Political Action Conference appearance in March 2013. Bush is to appear again Friday, as he considers a potential 2016 presidential campaign. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

That changes today, when he appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference — where potential 2016 presidential rivals are already taking shots at him and some activists are organizing a walk-out.

NYU college student Ivan Teo said he doesn’t consider Bush “one of us,” but does give him credit for at least showing up on hostile turf. “I think him coming here, it’s brave. And I think that it’s great that we have a chance to ask him questions.”

Bush, the former Florida governor and the brother and son of the last two Republican presidents, is the presumed Republican establishment favorite in a venue that historically has not been kind to the party establishment.

In 2011, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul won the CPAC presidential straw poll, while Mitt Romney won the 2012 nomination. In 2007, Romney won the straw poll, while Arizona Sen. John McCain won the GOP nomination the following year.

And while many Republicans with presidential ambitions make CPAC an annual pilgrimage, Bush during his years as governor avoided the gathering as part of his overall strategy of staying away from events that would feed presidential speculation. Bush ended that self-imposed exile in 2013, and got a decidedly indifferent reception. His was the Friday night keynote speech — the “Ronald Reagan Dinner” — and Bush had just recently published his book Immigration Wars, that advocated an overhaul similar to what the Senate wound up passing a few months later.

Bush used the occasion to scold his party for seeming “anti-everything,” but also prescribed the same optimistic message about a “right to rise” that is the theme of his pre-campaign. Just months after the 2012 presidential election, Bush’s speech did not particularly offend his audience as much as fail to interest them at all. Bush spoke for just under 20 minutes, during which time many in the ballroom carried on conversations over dessert and coffee, ducked outside to answer phone calls, or just left entirely.

Before and after that, he was primarily speaking to corporate audiences that had paid him tens of thousands of dollars to hear him. Even in recent appearances in Detroit and Chicago, where he gave speeches as part of his “Right to Rise” political committees, Bush spoke to sympathetic audiences, and then took gentle questions from moderators.

Bush did do a warm-up of sorts Wednesday evening, appearing on conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt’s program, but even there the questioning was mild — primarily about foreign policy and the military.

Neither immigration nor the Common Core education standards, which are reviled by many of the GOP’s most conservative voters, came up in that interview. Both are certain to be asked about Friday, when Bush is questioned for 20 minutes by Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Bush, 62, compiled what was considered a deeply conservative record in his two terms as Florida governor, including tax cuts totaling $14 billion, support of gun rights, the creation of private school voucher programs and the use of public money to persuade women to avoid abortions. But his support for more stringent education standards in Common Core and an immigration overhaul that would not deport all those in this country illegally has angered many conservatives.

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In the war over GMO labeling, Big Food loses the PR battle – by Tom Zeller February 27, 2015 5:00AM ET

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In 2008, Duane Grant, who runs farms in Idaho and northern Oregon, began growing sugar beets from seeds that were genetically modified. As a result, he says he now uses fewer chemicals, tills the soil less often and gets larger yields from the same acreage — increasing profits and reducing his environmental footprint along the way.

“I am proud of that fact,” he said.

But that pride does not translate into support for a burgeoning consumer movement that would have mandatory labels placed on products containing sugars like his, such as juices, soft drinks and breakfast cereals, and on any other product containing a genetically modified organism, or GMO. Grant considers such labels irrational — a sentiment that aligns with the broader food industry, which has been spending tens of millions of dollars in recent years to avoid them, fearing they would drive customers away.

Despite two decades of assurances from biotechnology firms, food processors, federal regulators and even a substantial share of scientists that GMO foods are safe, ballot initiatives and citizen petitions seeking labels on GMO foods are springing up as quickly as the industry can pay — or sue — to defeat them. Meanwhile, sales of foods labeled GMO-free have been steadily gaining ground on consumer shopping lists, and polls suggest that more Americans than ever favor labels that identify GMO foods.

This has even some supporters of genetic engineering wondering if it’s time to rethink the labeling question. “If you give people a choice and value, that wins,” said David Ropeik, a risk-communication consultant. He has begun calling on the industry to let go of its “fear of fear” and embrace GMO labeling, which is required in at least 64 other nations, including Japan, Australia, Russia, Brazil and more than a dozen European countries.

But Grant, like many industry stakeholders, remains skeptical. “To allow popular perception of harm — or benefit — to be the basis for mandatory labeling would not result in food being safer,” he argued. “It would result in the scientific community being pushed to the sidelines in favor of food-fad-of-the-day mob regulation.”

Whether or not that’s true, food makers are spending lavishly to avoid mandatory GMO labels. In 2012, for example, opponents of a California labeling proposition — including Monsanto, ConAgra and other genetically modified seed makers alongside food companies like Sara Lee, Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s — spent a staggering $46 million, primarily on lobbying and advertising, to defeat the measure. Similar efforts in Washington the following year prompted the state’s attorney general to sue the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), alleging that the leading food industry lobby was hiding the identity of the contributors to its anti-labeling campaign in violation of state election laws. The GMA eventually came clean, revealing that dozens of contributors — including Nestle, Del Monte, Coca-Cola and Hershey — had chipped in $7 million to kill the measure.

In almost all such battles, the companies easily outspend label supporters.

Monsanto and Dupont Pioneer, for example, were among a long list of food industry interests that contributed over $15 million to defeat a labeling measure in Colorado during November’s elections, according to state records. Supporters of the bill managed to raise a tiny fraction of that amount. The initiative failed. Dupont, Monsanto, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo and other food industry players pumped more than $30 million into efforts to quash a similar ballot initiative in Oregon — twice the amount supporters were able to muster.

The industry is now locked in a fierce legal battle with Vermont, which passed a GMO labeling law last year, and companies have lobbied hard for federal legislation that would bar other states from following suit. A bill that would do that was introduced last spring by Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas who, as it happens, received the largest single contribution — $10,000 — from the GMA for the 2014 election cycle, according to federal data. The bill did not make it out of committee, but Heather Denker, a spokeswoman for Pompeo’s office, said he plans to reintroduce the bill in coming weeks.

The industry justifies all these expenditures on a variety of grounds. For starters, companies say, a hodgepodge of differing state labeling laws would be unworkable, and even a federal labeling rule would make food more expensive. They also argue that genetic modification, which involves the insertion of foreign genes into an organism — so far mostly crops like corn and soy — so that it expresses a new and ostensibly desirable trait, is really just one among a variety of plant breeding techniques that have been used for decades without complaint.

More substantively, GMO supporters argue that there is no evidence to suggest genetically modified foods present any more risk than conventionally bred fare, a view generally held by a long list of scientific organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the World Health Organization.

Taking a similar position, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food from GMO crops in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, has seen fit to leave GMO labeling a strictly voluntary affair.

“As a public health agency, we base our policy decisions on the best science available,” said Theresa Eisenman, an FDA spokeswoman, in an emailed statement. “The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived from genetically engineered plants, as a class, differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way or that, as a class, such foods present different or greater safety concerns than their non-GE [genetically engineered] counterparts.”

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