You need to know this. On the 53rd anniversary of President Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex, President Obama spoke in defense of massive government spying programs. During the much-anticipated speech, the President claimed that he will reign in our government's wide net of surveillance, and give the public “more confidence” in the National Security Agency's spying programs. However, most of the reforms that the President offered focus on data storage, mining, and sharing. They do not put limits on bulk data collection, make FISA Court rulings transparent, or do anything to protect the privacy rights of Americans. These so-called signal intelligence directives simply call for reports, reviews, and future policies, instead of defining concrete measures to protect Americans' civil rights. Fifty three years ago, President Eisenhower warned us about the power of “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power,” and we only need to look at the influence our intelligence agencies have to understand that warning. Despite the fact that there is no evidence that these government spying programs have saved American lives, our President, and our national security officials continue to claim that these violations of our civil rights are necessary to keep us safe. Americans don't want rhetoric and reports about government surveillance, they want their personal information to remain private in the absence of a warrant. There is a legitimate role for our national intelligence agencies, but we should not be asked to sacrifice our essential liberty in the name of national security.
In screwed news... Corporate marketing companies are selling junk food to our kids, and they're doing it right in our nation's schools. A new study published in the Americans Medical Association of Pediatrics says that the vast majority of students are exposed to marketing campaigns campaigns by food and drink companies every day. Exclusive contracts with companies like Coca Cola are prevalent in half of all middle schools, and 70 percent of high schools. While many districts have been working to limit the availability of junk food for sale in schools, they haven't done enough to reign in marketing campaigns that entice kids to buy their products. One of the study's authors wrote, “the continuing high prevalence of school-based commercialism calls for, at minimum, clean and enforceable standards on the nutritional content of all foods and beverages marketed to youth in school settings.” Our children should be in school to learn, not to be a captive audience for corporate marketing, and there should be no advertising in our nation's schools.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Two Los Angeles City Council members want hotel workers to earn a living wage, and their idea makes a lot of economic sense. A new study by the Economic Roundtable found that raising L.A's minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour would stimulate their economy enough to create almost 65,000 jobs. Right now, almost half of employees in that city make less than that amount, and the wage hike would put $73 million dollars into the pockets of low-wage workers. The wage hike for hotel workers has a good chance of passing, as Democrats have a super-majority in the Los Angeles City Council, and supporters of the plan would like to see the pay raise expanded to all city workers. The “Fight For 15” has been sweeping our nation as more and more workers join together to fight for a living wage. Thankfully this time, the fight is being waged by L.A. lawmakers, and it looks like that city is on a great path to lifting workers out of poverty.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are spiking higher than they have been in the past few days, but the average readings are still fairly calm. Chicopee, Massachusetts is reporting 43 counts per minute, with spikes of 71, and Asheville, North Carolina is sitting at 36, with highs of 86 counts per minute. Spearfish, South Dakota is averaging 43 counts per minute, with spikes of 88, and Chino Valley, Arizona is hovering at 53, with highs of 82 counts per minute. Paso Robles, California is reporting 42 counts per minute, with spikes of 69, and Medford, Oregon is averaging 36, with highs of 60 counts per minute. RadCast.org's alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
More than 200 organizations and businesses are calling on our President to stand up for our right to know what's in our food. They're asking President Obama to uphold his campaign pledge on GMO labeling. This group includes organizations like the Center for Food Safety, the Environmental Working Group, and Just Label It – and, their efforts are supported by congressional champions like Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio. Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety said, “President Obama has long argued that transparency is essential for public trust. We couldn't agree more. American consumers want and deserve mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.” Hopefully this large group of organizations will have some sway over the President and our lawmakers, and we will finally get a national right to know what's in our food.
And finally... Forget about artificial intelligence, most of us are being effected by artificial empathy. And no, I'm not talking about Republicans learning to talk like they care about poor people. A sophisticated data analysis system called Mattersight is listening to our customer service calls, and determining our mood before we ever speak to a real person. The system listens to our volume, pauses, tone, speed of response, and more, to try and match us up with a customer service rep that fits our personality. And, the person you speak with may have no idea that this is happening. Overtime, the Mattersight system can create a “personality profile” for you, however it's not quite clear on what that entails, or on what happens with that information. Considering how much most people hate automated customer service systems, you have to wonder how they classify callers... perhaps “slightly annoyed”, “completely frustrated”, and “ready to throw their phone”????
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