Court on NSA Surveillance: 10 days, Two Judges, Two States, Two Rulings

NSA

Two opposite court judgements have been handed down regarding the NSA surveillance program in 10 days by two US district judges in two states.

On December 27, US District Judge William Pauley in New York ruled in ACLU v. James R. Clapper that the NSA’s metadata program is lawful under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The ACLU sought a preliminary injunction against the Government’s program, but this was denied.

On December 16, US District Judge Richard L. Leon in DC ruled in Klayman v. Obama that the NSA program was “likely unconstitutional.” Leon found against the NSA’s metadata program and granted a preliminary injunction, but stayed the ruling to allow for appeals.

James R. Clapper was filed June 11 by the American Civil Liberties Union against the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Days earlier, Edward Snowden’s leaks were published by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, revealing the NSA’s telephone data collection program, which records in dragnet the numbers and duration of calls Americans dial, but not the content of those calls.

Pauley cited several reasons for his decision.

Pauly framed the NSA program within a group of counter-measures the government had effected in order to combat the threat posed by a new enemy: terror networks. The September 11 terrorist attacks, Pauly reasoned, might have been prevented if the metadata program had been in place at that time.

Pauly stated that the “blunt tool”–the metadata program–works only because it collects everything.

Pauly found that, putting aside the public and government discussion and litigation taking place in the wake of the unauthorized disclosures of Edward Snowden, the question Pauly was tasked to deal with in James R. Clapper was specifically whether the bulk telephony program is lawful. Pauly found that it was lawful, but noted explicitly that “the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of Government to decide,” referring to the legislative and executive branches of government.

Pauly concluded by quoting Justice Jackson: “the Bill of Rights is not a suicide-pact,” observing that the Forth Amendment right against search and seizure is “fundamental, but not absolute.” Pauly framed the question of government surveillance in terms of reasonableness. Pauly cited the voluntary giving of information more personal than telephony metadata by most Americans to various trans-national corporations. There was no evidence that the government had used any of its collected data for any purpose other than investigating terrorist attacks – violations, Pauly said, stemmed from human error and the complex nature of the information tool – and that the metadata program was subject to responsible oversight and monitoring. Pauly reiterated his concern over the “cost of missing such a [useful piece of information against a terrorist plan]” that could be horrific, referring to the 9/11 attacks.

Pauley dismissed the ACLU’s complaint and denied the ACLU’s motion for injunction.

The ACLU commented after Pauley’s decision, complaining that the decision misinterpreted relevant statutes and understated the privacy implications of the NSA program. The ACLU also complained that Pauley’s ruling relied on and misapplied the precedent of Smith v. Maryland (1979), which is the precedent referred to in cases where third-party disclosures are at issue.

Smith v. Maryland continued a tradition in U.S. law that “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” In Smith, the Supreme Court found that no warrant is required to obtain information from phone companies for metadata those companies hold as business records. FISA has also upheld this ruling in secret, one-sided courts conducted since 2006.

Klayman v. Obama, ruled on by Judge Leon on December 16, had an opposite result. Leon called the NSA program “almost Orwellian” and said that the program probably violated the Fourth Amendment. Leon observed that James Madison would be “aghast” at the program.

Leon stated that the government had not shown any case where the program actually stopped an immanent terrorist attack. This function is the primary rationale for the program that Leon found to probably infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights.

Leon noted Smith v. Maryland, but found that the meaning of telephone use had changed substantially since the 1979 case–beyond what could even be conceived at that date–and so should not be relied on in the trial.

Leon warned the government that he was providing six months for the government to prepare for eventual defeat if the appeals Leon expected the government to make did not succeed.

Klayman was brought by a conservative lawyer, Larry Klayman and the father of a soldier killed in 2011 in Afghanistan, Charles Strange.

Law Professor at George Washington University, Orin Kerr, commented on the two rulings, calling them “dream rulings” for each interested party respectively, “Point and counterpoint” of the issue. Kerr explained that both opinions were material for the appeals courts to take up.

President Obama has voiced his intention to state publicly in January what reforms to the NSA program he supports. Obama’s personally appointed review panel recommended last week that the NSA should conduct significant reforms and no longer store the metadata in question.

From here, the losing parties of the two trials on NSA surveillance will proceed to appeals courts; the ACLU said that it intended to appeal James R. Clapper and the government is expected to appeal Klayman in the upcoming months.

By Day Blakely Donaldson

Sources

New York Times
Guardian LV
Memorandum Opinion of Judge Pauly
Memorandum Opinion of Judge Leon

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

South Sudan: Rebels Hold out in Malakal, Seize Oil Wells

south sudan

 

Malakal, South Sudan – In the capital of the Upper Nile State, fighting continued for the third day as the rebel forces held out against the government army; rebels have also seized oil wells in the region.

Oil production in the Upper Nile State has been shut down due to this weeks fighting. Oil output is down a fifth to 200 000 barrels per day. The rebels-held oil wells are a concern to the government and oil companies, who fear the rebels may damage the facilities.

South Sudan’s army spokesman Philip Aguer stated again that the rebels, who control half of Malakal, will be defeated soon.

South Sudan’s President Kiir met with Uhura Kenyatta and Hailemariam Desalegn, Kenya’s President and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister. This meeting was set in Juba and lasted three hours. It is not known whether Riek Machar, the former Vice President of South Sudan, was involved in the talks. The current whereabouts of Machar are unknown.

The two opposing leaders have stated that their disagreement is political, and leaders from neighboring countries have spoken out against foreign press who might be creating the impression that the conflict is inter-ethnic.  However, both Dinka and Nuer people are in fear of tribal (aka ethnic) violence at each others hands during the political conflict, according to the personal testimony of many of those affected on the ground.

Civil strife began in Juba on December 15 after President Kiir accused former Vice President Machar of attempting to stage a coup and Machar accuesd Kiir of attempting to purge his rivals.  South Sudanese loyal to Machar began violence against the government in several cities.  The rebels were forced out of Juba and Bor but have been able to hold half of Malakar; the government holds the other half.

Currently, 58 000 civilians are seeking refuge in UN compounds, according to UN spokespersons. 93 000 people have been displaced by the nearly two weeks of fighting.

The UN is awaiting military and personnel reinforcements. UN officials are working to finalize the details of the reinforcements that were voted on Tuesday. The vote was to increase the peacekeeping force to 12 500 soldiers and 1300 police officers. This is a doubling of the current UN force in the country.

UN officials commented on their concern about recreating “nightmares of the past” in African peacekeeping and their surprise at the rapidity and scale at which the deterioration of order in South Sudan has occurred.

UN top official in South Sudan Hilde Johnson, whose task it is to oversee the protection of civilians in the UN camps said, “All peacekeepers are under instruction to use force when civilians are under imminent threat.”

The first UN reinforcements are expected in two days.

China has announced that it will spend a special envoy to South Sudan. China has a significant stake in oil production in South Sudan.

Australia has offered two large military transport aircraft, a Globemaster and a Hercules, to assist with the in- and outflow from South Sudan. Australia is awaiting UN instructions before sending the aircraft.

Nairobi will be the location of the next international meeting between South Sudan and its neighbors. This meeting is scheduled for Friday.  The goal of these talks will be to end the rebel hold out in South Sudan.

Written by Day Blakely Donaldson

Sources:

Land and Sea Journal
Reuters
ABC

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

South Sudan: Fighting Continues in Malakal After Bor Recaptured

south sudan

 

Malakal in the Upper Nile State of Sudan is the site of the most recent fighting, continuing the now-10-day struggle for power between the Kiir government and the Machar-led rebels. Malakal is the capital of the Upper Nile State, an oil region.

On December 24 the South Sudan army defeated the rebels without much resistance in Bor, which had been under siege for a week after the rebels took it late Wednesday. The violence in Bor prompted 17 000 civilians to flee to UN compounds. Information Minister Michael Makwei said, “We recaptured Bor on Tuesday evening, just before sunset, and this morning there are currently operations against some pockets of rebels within the airport area,” also announcing that the remaining rebels were on the run.

The Sudanese government has stated that Malakal has not fallen to the rebels, but fighting continues. Much of Jonglei state is still held by the rebels.

The unrest began 10 days ago on December 15 and quickly spread from Juba. The country was divided between Nuer and Dinka ethnicities.

Fighting began Tuesday between rebels and government loyalists after President Kiir accused his former Vice President Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Machar countered that Kiir was on a campaign to purge his rivals. Machar vowed to oust Kiir and called on the army to carry out this purpose. A powerful army commander mutinied last week, joined Machar, and seized Bentiu.

A mass grave was reported to have been discovered in Bentiu. On Tuesday UN officials stated that the remains of up to 75 Dinka soldiers (Sudan People’s Liberation Army). Bentiu is the capital of the rebel-held Unity State. Two other mass graves were found in Juba. UN officers have not been able to visit the two Juba grave-sites, in Jebel-Kujur and Newside, near Eden. These killings followed ethnic violence. (The reports of the mass grave in Bentiu is currently under review after being denied by the UN mission in South Sudan. The report was initially issued by the office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, and was later revised to 34 bodies and 75 missing persons.)

UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay stated, “Mass extrajudicial killings, the targeting of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity and arbitrary detentions have been documented in recent days.”

Pillay also talked about the hundreds of civilians were who arrested from houses and hotels in Juba during a house-to-house search.

The same Tuesday a resolution was passed by the UN Security Council to send an additional 5500 peacekeepers to South Sudan. The force will likely be assembled from peacekeepers currently stationed in other African countries. The UN also intends to boost contributions.

Currently, 40 000 Sudanese are sheltered in UN bases. Civilians of both tribes fear being killed by ethnic enemies. Relief organizations are struggling to handle thousands who are caught in the fighting or have fled from violence in the capital. 80 000 Sudanese have been forced to leave their homes.

Responding to allegations of “death squads” carrying out ethnicity-targeted massacres, South Sudan foreign minister, Barnaba Benjamin, replied, “This is not an ethnic war frankly speaking…. It is true that this is a struggle for power, a political struggle.” Benjamin admitted that there were isolated cases of genocidal killing, but asserted that this was not the main theme of the conflict, and reminded observers that the army was mixed-race.

U.S. Marines have been moved to Djibouti in preparation for the evacuation of Americans and to protect U.S. facilities.

December 15, President Kiir accused former Vice President Machar of attempting a coup in Juba, which attempt Machar denied. Kiir is Dinka and Machar is Nuer. Both leaders have indicated their willingness to talk peace.

President Kiir announced, “Innocent people have been wantonly killed. People are targeting others because of their tribal affiliation. This is unacceptable…. These atrocities recurring by now have to cease immediately.”

Machar announced December 24: “Yes we are ready for talks. I have formed my delegation.” This delegation would likely attend talks in Ethiopia, with whose government Machar had been in communication. Ethiopia was decided on as a site of “neutral ground.” Machar himself would not go to Ethiopia, he said.

However, Machar announced that he was willing to negotiate only on condition that detained political prisoners were freed by the government. Kiir rejected this condition.

A spokesman from the army stated that within a few days the army would attack Bentiu.

Americans and UN officials members of every level have called for peace. Commentators have started to voice concern over the compatibility of the Sudanese situation with the Central African Republic and other African nations which slid into genocide and lawlessness. For now, fighting continues in Malakal after Bor was recaptured yesterday.

By Day Blakely Donaldson

Sources:
Voice of America
ABC Reuters
New York Times
Google ABC
Reuters

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Fortune Teller Sued for $1 Million

Fortune Teller

 

Lawyer Michael Busby is seeking $1 million in damages from a Houston fortune teller after a ritual to reunify Busby with his wife went awry. The Houston lawyer filed the lawsuit December 16 against several defendants allegedly associated with the Houston psychic services business, Psychic Love Spell Center.

Busby, a certified attorney since 2002 and currently a bankruptcy and family law practitioner at Busby & Associates, is suing Melena Thorn, the fortune teller. Busby allegedly states that fortune teller, Thorn did not return $2,700 Busby gave her in order to be ritually reunited with his wife.

The $2,700, Busby says, was to be cleansed by the psychic and then returned and placed under the marital bed. Busby alleges that he “filed suit not because the ritual failed, but because the contract was not honored and the woman lied about services being sold.”

Busby first paid $30 for a tarot reading, after which the psychic advised the husband-wife reunification ritual. Busby paid for the tarot reading he said, to “give [him] an edge.” The fee for the ritual was $500, which Busby paid by gift card.

Busby is seeking a class action suit, alleging that over 100 people have been defrauded by Psychic Love Spell Center.

Thom has responded that she never received the $2700 from Busby, and that the $500, which was used for candles and other materials involved in the ritual, would be refunded when she could get the money together.

Busby has published the work up of the case, in which he notes that “The defendants are a family of Roma…. The family have strong gypsy roots…. I believe that all the names used are not birth names, nor has there ever been a court order granting name changes for any of the defendants….” Busby also notes that he has not found any listed corporate entity for the defendants, no “doing business as filings,” and no records of sales tax paid to the state.

Busby filed his original petition December 16, in which he seeks “monetary relief over $1 million” and a permanent injunction against the named defendant from fortune telling within the state of Texas. Busby is also seeking a “permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from practicing or advertising Psychic abilities within the state of Texas.” On December 20 subpoenas were issued to the Houston Better Business Bureau and the Bellaire Police department.

Busby is reaching out to prospective co-plaintiffs: “Texas and Houston residents, I have stuck my chin out there and they are taking swings at me. If you need help with this family, now is the time to come forward.”

Commenting lawyers have noted that the proceeding may not succeed as a class action suit. There is not sufficient commonality (under rule 23(b)(3) for class actions that require that “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate” over individual concerns and make the class action a better method than individual adjudication. The prospective co-plaintiffs will be hard to find because of the high level of potential embarrassment and the low potential of recovery. Busby has addressed this issue, “If you do not want to go public about your dealings with the family, I understand. You are welcome to discuss concerns with me privately should you be undecided.”

Lawyers have also commented about the practice of tarot readings to “get an edge” in legal proceedings. Some argue that it is a breach of attorney ethics, others disagree because oracles are available to both sides.

Busby expects to see class action certification before February 2014. Fraud, violation of Texas consumer law and breach of contract are among the causes of action in the lawyer’s lawsuit for $1 million against the fortune teller.

By Day Blakely Donaldson

Sources:

Busby Law
Busby Law
ABA Journal

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

South Korea Claims Airspace Overlapping Japanese and Chinese Claims

South Korea Claims Airspace Overlapping Japanese and Chinese Claims

Dec 8. South Korea has announced the extension of its air defense zone (to take effect Dec. 15).  The new zone overlaps the zones claimed by Japan and China.

In the East China Sea a dispute arose Nov. 23 when China announced new borders for its air defense zone, and warned that all aircraft entering this space must notify the Chinese authorities in advance, and that China’s air force would be on high alert to firmly protect its airspace.

This warning was directed particularly at Japan, who has held an air zone which is overlapped by China’s recent claim.  This zone was decided by the victors of WWII, and is protected by America through the Japanese-American Treaty of Mutual Protection.  The new Chinese zone also claims a submerged rock and research station belonging to South Korea.

The Senkaku Islands were annexed by Japan in 1895, before which no country had pronounced any claim over them.  America occupied them for a period after the 1945 Japanese surrender.  The islands have been used for ecological surveys and US military bombing sites since the 1940’s, when the last residents stopped fishing there.  The islands were privately owned by Japanese entrepreneurs since 1900 and rented by the Japanese government until 2012 when the Japanese government bought the islands.

Taiwan and China have claimed the islands since 1971.  China and Taiwan claim ownership from 1534 and claim that the islands, though signed over to Japan in the first Sino-Japanese war, should return to China because after WWII Japan released certain of its territories.  Japan rejects both claims.

No details specific to these islands are contained in the treaties wherein Japan gained or ceded control of her empire.  What is stated in both the 1895 and the 1951 treaties is that Japan gains and then relinquishes Formosa and “all islands appertaining to or belong to Formosa.”

America administered the area from WWII to 1972, when it returned ownership to Japan.  The US does not have an official position on the competing claims.  However, the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan binds America to protect these islands (confirmed by US government officials 2004, 2010, and 2012, when the US senate amended the National Defense act for 2013 to specifically cover the Senkakus as protected Japanese territory).  The US government has also mentioned the Senkakus specifically since the discovery of nearby oil reserves in 1969 and since the Taiwanese and Chinese contentions in 1971.  Before that time, the Senkakus were not mentioned; only the Ryukyu island chain was mentioned as Japanese territory.

Recent years have seen protests and clashes between Chinese and Japanese boats and in some cases air craft.

Nov. 23 after announcing their claim, China sent an air force mission to patrol the area.  Japanese commercial flights were ordered to disregard the Chinese warnings.  Nov. 26 America, who declared the airspace international, flew two unarmed B-52s through it.  The US military stated that they would continue to do so and without identifying themselves.  South Korea and Japan have also sent military aircraft to the area.  Commercial airlines have been using the area uninterruptedly since China’s warnings.  America, Japan, and South Korea have protested China’s statement claiming new airspace.

South Korea possesses the submerged rock called Ieodo, upon which rests a South Korean research station.  The rock is also claimed by China.  The South Korean air defense zone was established by the US during the Korean War.  The US, Japan and China have agreed that the expansion of the South Korean air zone is in line with international law.

Many commentators note the importance of the islands as oil and gas reserves.  In 2009 the US sanctioned Iranian oil and gas.  Japan had been importing oil from Iran until then (so had China, which bypassed US sanctions).  Some commentators point to the economic gains that come from military expansion as a motivation for increasing tensions in the area.

By Day Blakely Donaldson

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Book: The Self Immolators (2013)

The Self Immolators (2013) - Day Blakely Donaldson

Link to Book – left-click to View; right-click-save to save

The Self Immolators (2013) Justin Blakely Munce

(Please return to comment on the book/issue)

The Self Immolators (2013) - Day Blakely Donaldson 2

 By Day Blakely Donaldson

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Tibetan protester dies of torture after being released on “medical parole”

Tibetan protester dies of torture after being released on "medical parole"

A Tibetan protester who was arrested for taking part in a pro-Tibet march has died. Released on “medical parole” after years of torture, the man’s health continued to decline until he died Mar. 1.

Lobsang, 43 was arrested May 5, 2010. Chinese police charged that Lobsang had been the leader of the 2008 Machu Protest–which lasted three days and in which 12 Tibetans were killed when Chinese military police opened fire at over 2000 people who were marching and calling for Tibet’s independence.

Several Tibetans were arrested and charged with “spear-heading” the Machu protests.

Tibetan protester dies of torture after being released on "medical parole"Lobsang was held for five months before being sentenced to 10 years prison for participating in the protest.

Lobsang was released last year on what Chinese officials call “medical parole.”

“The Chinese police and prison authorities brutally tortured him in detention and in prison. He suffered death-threatening injuries as a result. Since the authorities feared that he might die in prison, they decided to release him on medical parole, before he was to complete his full sentence. He was released on 27 October 2013,” said a source who is in contact with Tibetans involved.

“He was literally reduced to skin and bones. He could not walk. He could not eat or drink. He could not even utter a single word,” said the source.

A note written by Lobsang while imprisoned Sept. 28, 2012, translated by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

ScreenHunter_1785 Dec. 05 19.13

ScreenHunter_1787 Dec. 05 19.13

 

 

By Day Blakely Donaldson

Photos: Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.