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Imposter anxiety

the economistMié, 09/04/2014 - 18:26

DEFENDERS of North Carolina's new voter-ID law have been crowing this week. "Hundreds of cases of potential voter fraud uncovered in North Carolina," declared a recent Fox News headline. "Study finds 765 cases of NC voter fraud in 2012 election" echoed the Daily Tar Heel. North Carolina's State Board of Elections recently announced they had discovered 35,750 records of voters whose names and date of birth matched people who had voted in other states. More damningly, 765 North Carolina voters in 2012 had the same last four Social Security digits as people who voted in other states, and dozens more had apparently voted after they had died. Local conservatives have hailed these numbers as evidence that the state's strict new voter rules are essential safeguards against dodgy voter behaviour. “These findings should put to rest ill-informed claims that problems don’t exist...Continue reading

Noise and clamour

the economistMar, 08/04/2014 - 23:54

WHEN same-sex marriage activists force an ideological opponent to quit his job, are they violating liberal principles? Andrew Sullivan, a steadfast advocate for gay rights, thinks so. I do too, and John Locke, the great 17th-century theorist of liberalism, would probably agree.

In 2008 Brendan Eich gave $1,000 to support Proposition 8, a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in California. When this detail emerged last month, some web developers boycotted Mozilla to protest its promotion of Mr Eich, one of the company’s co-founders and the developer of JavaScript, to CEO. OKCupid, a dating website, joined the anti-Eich campaign a few days later. "Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples,” read the site's default screen for Firefox users. “We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OKCupid." On April 3rd Mr Eich resigned,...Continue reading

BIG Data.NOT.

Tom PetersMar, 08/04/2014 - 19:51

Consider … “The Gross National Product does not include the beauty of our poetry or the intelligence of our public debate. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”—Robert Francis Kennedy “To […]

The post BIG Data.
NOT.
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Cash rules everything around us

the economistVie, 04/04/2014 - 16:38

AS A foreign journalist covering politics in America, I have learned to interpret the manoeuvrings of politicians in financial as well as political terms. A candidate for governor says something crazy about guns. Why? To shore up his position with voters ahead of a close-run primary, perhaps. But it could also be because he's running out of money and needs to gee up the fat-walleted second-amendment crowd. If you wondered, as I did, why the Democrats seemed to have got a bee in their collective bonnet over Nate Silver's GOP-friendly Senate predictions, you'll find the answer in their fundraising e-mails, which leverage the bad news to squeeze donors for more cash. Money Continue reading

You can lead a horse to the wadi

the economistVie, 04/04/2014 - 00:35

JOHN KERRY has spent much of his first year as Secretary of State on a quest to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority through sheer relentless diplomacy. As of this week, his effort seems to be on its last legs. As Mr Kerry put it, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." If the nine-month negotiations process reaches the end of April with no significant agreement, it will be strong evidence that negotiations are simply never going to succeed in producing the long-sought two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. We have been around this block over and over for more than 20 years now. There seems little reason to believe that another American could succeed where Mr Kerry has failed, or that future political developments in Israel and Palestine will push their leaders closer to a peace deal rather than further away.

For Americans, this will intensify an ever-worsening problem of cognitive dissonance: we support Israel in the belief that it is moving towards ending its occupation of the...Continue reading

Come up to the lab

the economistJue, 03/04/2014 - 21:50

FASHIONS change fast in foreign-aid policy. Ten years ago, when George W. Bush launched the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the priority was to find governments in poor countries that could be trusted to spend aid money wisely. Now the focus is on forming partnerships between rich country government aid agencies and the private sector, especially those private businesses, foundations and universities that try to use science and technology to develop innovative ways of helping people in poor countries escape poverty. To that end, on April 3rd Rajiv Shah (pictured), the head of USAID, the international development arm of America’s federal government, unveiled the biggest change to aid policy since the MCC: a new agency called the US Global Development Lab.

The Lab will start with a staff of 150, 65 of them scientists, many seconded from some 32 private-sector partners ranging from universities to companies such as Microsoft, Nike and Walmart, as well as charities including Care and Catholic Relief Services. From its base in Washington, DC, it will work with seven labs in universities across the country. Its aim will be to find new...Continue reading

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