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  1. should Central and State governments, banks and insurance companies, mobile phone operators, educational institutions, airlines and hospitals be vested with the draconian power to take coercive action against any person who does not have Aadhaar verification and to deprive him or her of basic services and benefits?

    This is the far-reaching, game-changing, mind-wrenching judgment that Justices Dipak Misra, Sikri, Khanwilkar, Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan will have to deliver. It is an onerous task; and an awesome responsibility. It will alter the equation between citizenship and society, governance and commerce for generations to come.

    And, moreover, it is irreversible. Once Aadhaar is made mandatory, it will be meaningless to declare it to be voluntary or optional through some future judicial review.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-17)
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  2. “The more data you have, the better the data products you can develop,” Professor Steven Weber said when discussing the link between data and development. “The better the data products you develop and sell, the more data you receive as those products get used more frequently and by larger populations.”

    But if all the world’s data flows back to a few tech powerhouses, without restrictions or taxes, this will further reinforce their monopolies, widen the privacy gap, and leave developing countries as passive consumers or data points, rather than participants in the digital economy.

    Those calling for liberalization use the rhetoric of creating opportunities for the poor — connecting the next billion — which sounds great, but only if we disconnect it from reality. Today, 60% world lacks even access to electricity. In the past, Spanish colonizers arrived in the Americas offering mirrors to the indigenous people in exchange for their gold. Is connectivity the “mirror” powerful actors are offering to the global poor today?

    Trade agreements eliminate the diversity of domestic policies and priorities, and impose costly restrictions on countries that want to address local inequalities and boost local industry. In the case of the digital economy, it will consolidate the position of few, to the detriment of the rest.
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  3. L’altare della patria è uno dei monumenti più famosi e fotografati di Roma.

    Molti romani chiamano il Vittoriano “macchina da scrivere”, ripetono che è brutto e lo associano al fascismo ma in realtà non c’entra proprio niente né con Mussolini né con il ventennio della sua dittatura.

    Vuoi saperne di più su questo monumento della capitale? Si parte!
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-16)
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  4. Right now BTC works like a foreign currency. The enormous sell off of dollars to buy BTC is best understood as a currency bubble. It’s not shares in a company: companies make things. As I’ve said before, the future is a foreign country, and it is also our largest trading partner. BTC is the national currency of The Future, and people are shorting the Present to buy the FutureCoin. (Throughout I’ll refer to BTC. I really mean “and all the other currencies.) People buying bitcoin are shorting status quo.

    But The Future shares a geography with The Present. The governments own The Present, and you can’t just open “The Future” right in the middle of their turf without a dialogue. But a lot of people with a lot of money are performing a great hedge against a dollar price collapse brought on by political factors — you can imagine what a Trump impeachment followed by insurrection in the South would do to bitcoin prices, can’t you? Well, so can other people: that’s part of the risk everybody is hedging by buying Bitcoin. But, right now, nothing is for sale in BTC other than other currencies, and a few share-like instruments in companies that aren’t actually doing any real trade yet. We have a huge slab of unhedged political risk tied up in our Future Coin holdings.
    Tags: by M. Fioretti (2017-12-16)
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  5. Most people accept the popular view that the arrival of self driving cars will be a blessing for Uber, delivering increased profits, lower prices, and larger scale. In reality, self driving cars will put the entire company at risk.

    Uber is winning today because of the powerful network effects associated with a two sided marketplace for transportation. They spend the majority of their resources on attracting, screening, hiring, training, engaging, and retaining drivers. It is their core competency as a company. Having the most drivers online makes Uber the best place to get a ride with the fastest arrival time at the best price. Having the fastest arrival time and best price attracts the most users to Uber. Having the most users makes the drivers stay with Uber, because they can make the most money there. This is a powerful virtuous cycle once you are at scale. Legendary investor / operator David Sacks drew this cycle on a napkin:

    On the other hand, there is very little loyalty to transportation companies like Uber. Arrival time and price are really the only 2 meaningful factors consumers make decisions based on. Customers are happy to use other competitive services when Uber isn’t the cheapest or doesn’t have the best arrival time. When Uber initiates surge pricing, users flock to competitors. Uber maintains a strong defensible lead mostly because they have locked down the supply of drivers in many different regions. This is why they’ve aggressively raised the most capital to go after every market as quickly as possible. This is their only key advantage over other companies, and it’s about to disappear.

    As self driving cars become a reality, this type of service is no longer a two- sided marketplace, but instead a commodity rental business. There will no longer be a constrained supply of drivers, so the network effects evaporate.
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-16)
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  6. Parker described how in the early days of Facebook people would tell him they weren’t on social media because they valued their real-life interactions.

    “And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be,’” he said.

    “I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying,” he added, pointing to “unintended consequences” that arise when a network grows to have more than 2 billion users.

    “It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he said.

    He explained that when Facebook was being developed the objective was: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” It was this mindset that led to the creation of features such as the “like” button that would give users “a little dopamine hit” to encourage them to upload more content.

    “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
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  7. A former Facebook executive has said he feels “tremendous guilt” over his work on “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”, joining a growing chorus of critics of the social media giant.

    Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for user growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”

    The remarks, which were made at a Stanford Business School event in November, were just surfaced by tech website the Verge on Monday.

    “This is not about Russian ads,” he added. “This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
    Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human 'vulnerability'
    Read more

    Palihapitiya’s comments last month were made a day after Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, criticized the way that the company “exploit s » a vulnerability in human psychology” by creating a “social-validation feedback loop” during an interview at an Axios event.

    Parker had said that he was “something of a conscientious objector” to using social media, a stance echoed by Palihapitiya who said that he was now hoping to use the money he made at Facebook to do good in the world.

    “I can’t control them,” Palihapitiya said of his former employer. “I can control my decision, which is that I don’t use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”

    He also called on his audience to “soul-search” about their own relationship to social media. “Your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed,” he said. “It was unintentional, but now you gotta decide how much you’re going to give up, how much of your intellectual independence.”
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-16)
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  8. It’s a grassroots revolution led by people who want to take charge of their own financial future, people who know that lotteries and casinos are hopeless but didn’t had nowhere to go because they were too “small” for mainstream investment opportunities.
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  9. Those rock-bottom prices are a function of rock-bottom wages and materials. In workshops scattered around Prato, Chinese employees put in 15 to 16 hours a day in conditions and for wages no Italian would contemplate.

    Yen Chow Chan, a missionary from a US-based organisation, Evangelical Mission and Seminary International, has been inside many of these workshops.

    "Most employ about 10 people who don't just work in them," he says. "They live in them – they cook, eat and sleep in them." However normal that may be in China, it is against the law in Italy.

    "What we have here is an organised illegal system", says Roberto Cenni, a local businessman and the city's first rightwing mayor since the second world war. "In the year to end-May, police carried out 152 inspections on Chinese-owned premises with the result that 152 firms were put under judicial administration." Cenni's slate, endorsed by Silvio Berlusconi's Freedom People movement and allied to the xenophobic Northern League, surged to victory last year on a tide of unease about the Chinese presence. The situation remains tense.

    Dutch-born Yun Yin Lee, visiting Prato as a tourist, says: "The police here look at me in a way I've never been looked at in Holland." Last month saw impassioned protests from immigrant representatives after the mayor refused to declare an official day of mourning for three Chinese drowned in floods.

    "We, by which I mean the Chinese, are causing a lot of problems," Chan acknowledges. But, he adds, many arise from mutual incomprehension.

    "I find Italians friendly – if you speak a bit of Italian. Most of the Chinese here are from the countryside. They have difficulty with their own language, let alone someone else's. In any case, most don't have time to study.

    "A lot say to me, 'Why should I integrate? I'm here for maybe 10 years to save up and send back my money so I can go back to China and enjoy it.''"

    That may be the dream but, as Chan notes, the reality is often different. At the main hospital in Prato, 32% of the children born have Chinese mothers.

    Whatever their legal status, those children will grow up Italians. Already, you can see around town Italianised Chinese teenagers, the girls particularly conspicuous in their chic, often provocatively cut outfits and heavy makeup.

    "The ones who are born here dress like Italians, eat like Italians and don't speak much Chinese," says Hu Qui Lin.

    Hu is famous in Prato for being the only Chinese company owner (among between 4,000 and 5,000) to have joined Confindustria, the Italian bosses' federation. His managing director, like many of his other employees, is Italian. Giancarlo Maffei is also an adviser to the centre-left provincial government.

    "The mayor has concentrated on respect for the rules. But he'd do better to open a dialogue with the Chinese and try to convince them of the need for legality," Maffei says.

    "The problem is: who do I talk to in a context of systematic illegality?" says Cenni. "There are lots of people who want to be considered representatives of the Chinese community » . But we have no guarantee these people are 'clean'."

    Maffei says the provincial government has formed a joint working party "and is trying to advance a dialogue, albeit with problems". Pieraccini says those problems have included the arrest of some of the Chinese representatives.

    Ironically, what the two communities do is richly compatible. Prato's traditional industries, which are in sharp decline, are the manufacture of yarn and fabric. Pronto moda does not compete with either but could use the output of both.

    It may not help community relations that the Italian factories are closing down largely because of competition from China, but even Cenni says: "If we could put together the garment manufacturing abilities of the Chinese with the textile production abilities of the Italians, we could create a fashion centre here."
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  10. the UN diplomat who shepherded global climate talks from their post-Copenhagen standstill, remembers “5,000 people jumping out of their seats, crying, clapping, screaming, yelling, torn between euphoria and still disbelief.”

    But that euphoria masked a hard truth. The plausibility of the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals rested on what was lurking in the UN report’s fine print: massive negative emissions achieved primarily through BECCS—an unproven concept to put it mildly. How did BECCS get into the models?

    The story begins with the 2°C goal itself, a formal international climate target since 2010 (and informal since the 1990s). For years before Paris, climate researchers had warned that the 2°C limit was slipping out of reach—or was already unattainable.

    Here’s why: As climate researchers have clearly (and tirelessly) linked temperature rise to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, they can calculate back from a temperature target to the maximum amount of CO2 we can emit—our “carbon budget.” For a greater than 66 percent chance of staying below 2°C of warming, our CO2 concentration should remain under 450 parts per million.

    In 2010, when the 2°C goal was adopted at a major conference in Cancun, Mexico, the carbon budget for 450 ppm, or 2°C, was formidably tight: Only a third was left—1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Since humans were emitting 40 gigatons a year, the carbon budget would be easily blown before midcentury. This is the global accounting problem that a handful of specialized modeling groups began confronting in 2004, when the IPCC asked them to map scenarios in line with the 2°C goal. Essentially, how might we cut emissions without grinding the fossil-fuel-driven economy to an immediate standstill?

    To tackle this problem, the groups used a tool called an integrated assessment model—algorithms that draw on climate, economic, political, and technical data to imagine cost-effective policy solutions.

    Around the same time that Karlsson’s life changed via late-night Swedish television, Detlef Van Vuuren, a project leader of the Dutch modeling group IMAGE, came across the idea behind BECCS in the literature, looking at Obersteiner’s 2001 paper and work by Christian Azar and Jose Moreira. He was intrigued. In theory, by both producing energy and sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere BECCS could result in a path to 2°C that the global economy could afford.

    The key was that BECCS resulted in negative emissions, which, in the carbon budget, worked like a negative number. It was like having a climate credit card: Negative emissions allowed modelers to “overshoot” the carbon emissions budget in the short term, permitting greenhouse gases to rise (as they were doing in reality) and then paying back the debt by sucking the CO2 from the atmosphere later.

    “The idea of negative emissions became a deeply logical one,” Van Vuuren says.

    The rationale behind negative emissions relied heavily on the work of physicist Klaus Lackner, who at the turn of the millennia was sketching schemes for CO2 removal on blackboards for his students at Columbia University. Lackner, who was working on carbon capture and storage (then intended for storing emissions from coal-fired power plants), was the first person to suggest the idea of direct air capture—pulling CO2 out of the air. At that time, Lackner’s idea of direct air capture, like BECCS, was just theoretical.

    But Van Vuuren says that for the purposes of the models, BECCS could be said to exist, at least in its component parts. The IPCC had published a report on carbon capture and storage—and bioenergy just meant burning lots of crops. Some models did ultimately include direct air capture and another negative emissions technique, afforestation (planting lots of trees, which naturally absorb and store CO2 in the process of photosynthesis). But BECCS was cheaper because it produced electricity.

    In 2007 IMAGE published an influential paper relying on BECCS in Climatic Change, and garnered much attention at an IPCC expert meeting. Other groups started putting BECCS into their models too, which is how it came to dominate those included in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (the one that prompted the BBC to call Karlsson).

    The models assumed BECCS on a vast scale. According to an analysis that British climate researcher Jason Lowe shared with Carbon Brief, at median the models called for BECCS to remove 630 gigatons of CO2, roughly two-thirds of the carbon dioxide humans have emitted between preindustrial times and 2011. Was that reasonable?

    Not for James Hansen, who wrote that reliance on negative emissions had quietly “spread like a cancer” through the scenarios, along with the assumption that young people would somehow figure out how to extract CO2 at a cost he later projected to be $140–570 trillion this century.

    Anderson (of the India calculations) pointed out that the few 2°C scenarios without BECCS required CO2 emissions to peak back in 2010—something, he noted wryly, that “clearly has not occurred.” In a scathing letter in 2015, Anderson accused scientists of using negative emissions to sanitize their research for policymakers, calling them a “deux ex machina.” Fellow critics argued that the integrated assessment models had become a political device to make the 2°C goal seem more plausible than it was.
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