In the News: Week of December 8th

What happened in the world from December 8th - 14th

Happy Sunday morning everyone! I have decided to experiment with writing a weekly summary of the top news of the week and stories I found interesting. Right now, I’m planning to send out my roundup every Sunday morning for the previous week, but that is subject to change. Send me any tips by emailing me at danielmay1945@icloud.com.

Disclaimer: At some indefinite point in the future, this weekly roundup may be behind a paywall. However, my Friday newsletter will always be free. I don’t have any concrete plans at this point, but wanted to keep everyone in the loop.

In the news this week

Impeachment proceedings are moving through the House fairly quickly. Democrats introduced two articles of impeachment against Trump on Tuesday, and the House Judiciary Committee approved the articles Friday morning. This paves the way for a vote on the House floor next week, where Trump is likely to become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

Of course this doesn’t mean Trump will be removed from office; the Senate will either acquit President Trump or dismiss the charges. The impeachment vote may be bad news for politicians on both sides of the aisle who are up for re-election next year. Democrats in red-leaning districts or states may be forced to go on the record against Trump, which could potentially hurt them with moderate voters. Republicans with more moderate constituents will be forced to side with Trump, while in the past they could just send passive aggressive tweets his way and let God take care of the rest (Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter account, codename Pierre Delecto, threw some serious shade Trump’s way). Going on the record against impeachment could hurt many Republicans’ chances with moderate voters as well.

British voters went to the polls again on Thursday, their third nationwide general election in less than five years. Their two main choices for Prime Minister were Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, who are on extreme opposite sides of the political spectrum. Johnson is a do-or-die Brexiter and Corbyn is a Democratic socialist. The Economist refused to endorse either candidate (but did endorse the Lib Dems), and both men are thought to be racist by 30% of voters. The Brits once again voted Conservative, and Boris Johnson will remain in office. This means that Brexit may finally become a reality, but don’t hold your breath.

The Jersey City shooting that killed six, including two gunmen, is now being treated as an act of domestic terrorism instead of a random act, which investigators thought it to be initially. The suspects, both of whom are now dead, are believed to have held both anti-Semitic views and anti-law enforcement beliefs. This continues the trend of terrorists influenced by hateful domestic ideologies causing more deaths in the U.S. than those influenced by foreign ideologies. Domestic attackers are typically driven by a hatred of immigrants, ethnic minorities, or religious minorities.

The White Island volcano, off the north coast of New Zealand, erupted Monday. The total death toll from the eruption is believed to be at least 16, and 26 remain hospitalized with severe burns. Many are wondering why tourists were allowed to visit the active volcano in the first place. The island is privately owned, so the owners have a financial incentive to keep tours running even if conditions are dangerous. In this case they did exactly that, although the tourists who willingly traveled to an active volcano certainly accepted some level of risk. Search parties returned to the island Friday and recovered six bodies, despite the significant risk (between a 40-60% chance) of the island erupting again in the near future.

Headline of the Week: Even Hermit Crabs Have Wealth Inequality

Apparently our crustacean counterparts are one of the first animals known to experience wealth inequality. A study found that a few crabs hoard the biggest homes, although the gap isn’t as big in hermit crab society as ours: the top 1% of hermit crabs own about 3% of the total shell weight, whereas the top 1% of humans own nearly 50% of global wealth. Crab society is on a slippery slope, though, and if the top 1% of crabs aren’t careful they could soon have a political revolution on their hands.

Recommended reading

Caroline Haskins published a great three-part series on Vice about Ring, the Amazon-owned doorbell/home security/surveillance company. Part one is How Ring Went From ‘Shark Tank’ Reject to America’s Scariest Surveillance Company followed by ‘F*** CRIME’: Inside Ring’s Quest to Become Law Enforcement’s Best Friend and the finale, How Ring Transmits Fear to American Suburbs.

It’s a well-written, eye-opening, scary series about how Ring (well, really Amazon) is leveraging the fear of mostly white suburban Americans to create a nationwide network of cameras and essentially have an eye on every street. Amazon’s goal is benign enough; over $9 billion in packages go missing or are stolen every year, many of them from Amazon. Ring cameras can prevent package theft and save Amazon money (not to mention the profit they make off the cameras).

Their partnerships with law enforcement, though, are much more troubling; local police have access to a special portal to request video from any Ring device. Want to opt-out and not be included in the police network? Too bad. Ring customers can choose to decline to share requested video clips with police, and police typically won’t be able to access them without a warrant. In many lower-income communities, however, police raffle off cameras and give them away for free. The catch? The police own all of the video your camera records, and can use the recorded video evidence against you, your neighbors, and anyone else who does something questionable near your house.

As if being spied on by Amazon and the police wasn’t enough, several hackers have gained access to live video and audio from people’s homes. They’ve done typical hacker things, using the built-in speaker on the devices to taunt children, racially abuse babies, and demand ransom in Bitcoin. Not only that, they live stream stranger’s houses for hundreds of listeners. Ring blames their customers for using weak passwords or compromised credentials, and says that Ring has not been breached. For Ring owners, this means that your protection against unwanted guests in your home is only as strong as your password. If your information has ever been exposed online (at this point, whose information hasn’t been exposed?), and you use similar credentials to login to Ring, you could be vulnerable to being hacked. Ironically, Ring may make your home less secure instead of more secure.

Ring has realized the key to making beaucoup bucks is to actively sow the seeds of distrust between neighbors, and so far they’re succeeding. 

Words of the Week: Consequentialism and Deontology

Consequentialists believe the morality of an action is determined by the consequences of that action. Deontologists believe that an action should be judged based on a series of rules and intent of the person committing the act, not the consequences of the action. In other words, consequentialists focus on the consequences of actions to determine morality, while deontologists focus on the morality of the action itself.

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