Astronomers just achieved something Einstein said was impossible – The Washington Post

Brilliant!

(Picture from the Washington Post.)

I think most things are knowable, but perhaps not in a lifetime, or even in several lifetimes.  In fact, the deeper you get into it, the more effort and the longer it takes.  But scientific curiosity should have no limits. We also need more brilliant minds like Einstein’s to carry the search forward.

 

An American Tragedy – The Story of Kalief Browder

This is probably one of those postings which justifies the use of the tagline “Anything Goes” for my blog pages.  You should perhaps not continue any further if you are concerned about becoming unduly disturbed by unpleasant stuff.  In case you continue, please realize that what happened in this case was not an isolated incident.  This story points to systemic issues at many different levels. It is a result of the society, the politics, and the way of life, that we are willing to accept, for not just ourselves, but for everybody around us.
http://www.democracynow.org/2015/6/8/traumatized_by_3_years_at_rikers

If you are looking for more in-depth reporting on the case, and getting an better understanding for how truly screwed up our criminal justice system is, you can find it in the following articles.
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/06/before-the-law
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kalief-browder-1993-2015

I heard this story while watching a documentary about the 13th Amendment on Netflix.   I recommend it!

Slavery In The World Today

I happened to tune to part of an episode of NPR’s Fresh Air program that caught my attention while I was driving home a few days back.  They were talking about slavery in the world today.  I was shocked for a couple of reasons.  The first was the realization that an institution that people have for a long time recognized as being abhorrent, and have condemned in the civilized world, still exists today.  In spite of all the technological and social advances in the world we have not found a way to uplift the life of so many people in all parts of the world.  In fact inequality probably exists to a far greater extent today than it ever did before. Would you believe that the statistics indicate that there are more than 20 million “slaves” in the world today?

You can also check out this older article on this topic from the Washington Post.

The second reason for my shock was the realization that a significant component of today’s slavery is due to the western world.  In our quest for cheaper goods and certain luxuries that we take for granted, we accept whatever process provides us with our  quality of lives with our eyes closed, and do not question how such a situation can come to be.  There has already been some publicity about how inexpensive clothes that are available in the west are sometimes created on the backs of exploited children in third-world countries.  But there are other aspects of our comfortable lives that are also dependent on the lives of exploited people.  I learned from the show that some of the rarer metals (cobalt , tantalum, etc.,) used in devices such as our smart phones for components like batteries and capacitors can come from slave mines in West Africa.  Folks, these are not just exploited people, they are real slaves with no freedom to live as they want.  The vendors manufacturing these products may actually not even know how exactly the raw material that goes into their products is obtained.   We, the consumers, are quite thrilled with getting a new, and very often subsidized, smartphone every other year for an inexpensive price from the service provider.  We consume so much of the product that the demand for the raw material cannot always be met by legitimate means.  There are consequences!

Think about it.  We are in the 21st century, and some of us have been fortunate to be able to live in circumstances where we do not have to worry about the basic necessities, and where we take a lot of what would be considered luxuries for granted, while at the same time there are people who are slaves who have nothing!   And if one is the cause for the continued existence of the other, humanity should be ashamed of itself.

But, surprisingly to me, I did find quite a bit of information while searching the Internet about this subject.  There is even a Wikipedia article on the topic.  There are organizations and people that are trying to bring attention to the problem.  There are people in this world with a conscience.  Here is one such link.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/daniel-hayes/2015/06/facts-about-modern-slavery/

 

T-Mobile’s Binge On service

I wrote a blog on the subject of Net Neutrality a while back when the FCC was in the process of putting into place rules for the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with regards to how they manage traffic from different sources within their networks.  Essentially the FCC ruled that all traffic has to be treated the same, i.e., in a fair manner. At that time I noted that this was easy enough to say, but could be difficult to implement, considering the diversity of the data and the kinds of traffic carried on the Internet.  At that time I noted that the FCC should act with a soft touch with regards to enforcement of regulation.

It turns out that we did not have to wait that long to see an implementation of traffic management in a ISP’s system that seems to violate the FCC’s rules.  But this implementation is being presented by the vendor as a feature that benefits the customer.   Witness T-mobile’s Binge On service.

The data service paradigm for most mobile service providers in the US is that you pay the vendor based on the amount of data that you use, or wish to use (if you sign up for monthly quotas).   So anything that reduces the component of the data that you receive that actually counts towards measurement of your usage should be considered a positive for the customer according to T-Mobile.  (Of course, this assumes that the customer has signed up for receiving an amount of data that really matches what he or she needs.)

But what has happened in the recent past is that the mainstream service providers have been trying to force customers into service packages that include a lot more data than they need, with the hope that they get hooked onto new services that will chew up this additional bandwidth resource.  This is what happens when folks start streaming video services on mobile networks.  As usage increases and begins to match what the customer has actually subscribed for, he or she will become more inclined to pay for additional data services on the network.  (This will also serve as justification for the mobile service providers to lobby to buy up more of the nation’s bandwidth resources for their own networks.)

Enter T-mobile.  They say that they will not count the amount of data that a customer who has signed up for Binge On receives for certain video streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc..)  against the customer’s data usage limits.  It sounds good, but what they are also doing is controlling the amount of the data in those video streams for people who are signed up.  They are in fact lowering the quality of the video being delivered, i.e., they are treating these video streams differently from how they would treat them normally in their networks.

You might say that this is OK since the customer knows that this happening.   It turns out that the customer really may not know what is going on.  It seems like this service is being offered today as an “opt out” service, i.e., unless you mention anything, you are signed up for it.  Also, it has been observed today that the customer’s video services are throttled even for video service providers that have not signed up with T-mobile for supporting the service.  It is not clear if the customer still pays for the data being received in such circumstances.

What is happening is exactly along the lines of my expectations.  Due to the nature of the Internet today, there are bound to be scenarios that develop to do not meet the notion of net neutrality in a simplistic fashion.  The FCC will have to adapt, and as it does, the set of detailed regulations that need to be considered will tend to change and continue to expand.

When people complain about government and bureaucracy, it is useful to remember that most of this happens a result of people and organizations creating situations where they try to manipulate the system to their own benefit, where simplistic approaches for enforcement will no longer work.  Very often this is done in the pursuit of big money, not necessarily the betterment of man.  After all, who will argue that entertainment, which is the application for most of the streaming video that tends to dominate the bandwidth usage of the Internet today, is most essential for our living, and should dominate the use of our resources.

Its a crazy world we live in!