Thursday, July 18, 2013

The beginning of the Bomb

On July 16, 1945, the Atomic Age began, as the old cliché goes. Hundreds of modern alchemists journeyed to an occult gathering in the New Mexico desert to conjure up a fantastical, mysterious force in the early hours of the morning. The famously unclear origins of the code name for the project, “Trinity,” only adds to the lore.

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Preemptive Legitimate Defense: When a Movement of Your Body Can Kill You

From The Funambulist:

Whether we talk about the war in Iraq or the murder of Trayvon Martin, there seems to emerge a legal means of justification for a country to invade another or for a white man to kill a black boy. I call this means “preemptive legitimate defense” insisting on its oxymoronic character that demonstrates its ethical and legal absurdity. Such a claim is revealing the contradictions of our era, what Slavoj Zizek denounces in the marketing inventions of decaffeinated coffee and beer without alcohol and their geopolitical equivalent: wars for peace. These contradictions emerge from the necessity for a majority of people in the Western World to maintain their way of life and to obtain an ethical justification for their political positioning. The notion of legitimate is therefore important: it involves a narrative whose consistency should be sufficient to be self-persuasive (the kind that makes us say that we should not give money to a beggar because (s)he is probably part of a larger network that is abusing her or him). The notion of preemptive also implies a narrative: an anticipated one — and therefore a fictional or speculative one — that would retroactively justify the defense. We find the paradox of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report here: if you know that someone is going to commit a crime you can arrest him (her) before (s)he commits it; yet, if you do arrest him (her) the crime has not been committed and therefore this person cannot be legitimately punished. The justification of a “preemptive legitimate defense” — of course, this is never presented that explicitely — is therefore always either hypocritical or delusional.

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Decolonial Strategies and Dialogue in the Human Rights Field

José-​Manuel Bar­reto, Critical Legal Thinking :

...A dog trained to attack the flesh, and tor­ture, kill, and gorge a man and a child in front of the mother con­nects Fernando Botero’s Abu Grahib with Bar­to­lomé de las Casas’ Short Account of the Destruc­tion of the Indies. In this scen­ario of colo­nial wars a dog is turned into a beast­—a tor­ture dog or a war dog—by the inhu­man­ity of con­quista­dors and invaders. The dog becomes a power­ful machine for ter­ror­iz­ing and des­troy­ing the body, and for dehu­man­iz­ing the col­on­ized—and the col­on­izer. Five hun­dred years apart these two images or stor­ies are bound together by their ori­gin: the his­tory of the advance of mod­ern imper­i­al­ism, and the sens­ib­il­ity of their authors for the suf­fer­ing of the vic­tims. The viol­ence and dread of these events res­on­ates in the global con­scious­ness and moral sen­ti­ment of our times

[ ... ]

Mod­ern­ity can­not be iden­ti­fied exclus­ively with eman­cip­a­tion, the Renais­sance and the Enlight­en­ment, but it is also his­tor­ic­ally evid­ent that colo­ni­al­ism was another of its cent­ral found­a­tions. The con­ven­tional con­cep­tion of mod­ern­ity needs to be revis­ited to accom­mod­ate the leg­acy of mod­ern imper­i­al­ism: the con­quest and col­on­iz­a­tion of the world—a vast enter­prise of dom­in­a­tion mar­shaled through wars of aggres­sion, gen­o­cides, slavery, plun­der and exploit­a­tion. 

[ ... ]

The his­tory of mod­ern ideas—mod­ern ration­al­ity itself, con­cep­tions of the state, even Marx­ist and other cri­tiques of cap­it­al­ism—runs inter­re­lated to the his­tory of mod­ern imper­i­al­ism. For a geo­pol­it­ical ana­lysis of know­ledge, the cul­tural col­on­iz­a­tion of world civil­iz­a­tions, ration­al­it­ies and intel­lec­tual dis­cip­lines ended in the cru­cial assump­tion accord­ing to which the ori­gin of legit­im­ate think­ing is con­fined to a cer­tain geo­pol­it­ical loc­a­tion, Europe, exclud­ing the exist­ence of other sites of know­ledge gen­er­a­tion...

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ABFFE Joins Campaign Against NSA Surveillance

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) has joined a number of other civil liberties organizations, including the ACLU, to protest the National Security Administration's surveillance of Americans' Internet activity and phone records. The recently revealed news of the NSA's actions spurred ABFFE and the other groups to write an open letter to members of Congress.

The letter says that the type of "blanket" spying the NSA has done "strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy." For booksellers and librarians in particular, the NSA's actions recall their fight against Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. 

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Authorities 'use analytics tool that recognises sarcasm'

Zoe Kleinman Technology reports for BBC News:

French company Spotter has developed an analytics tool that claims to be able to identify sarcastic comments posted online.
Spotter says its clients include the Home Office, EU Commission and Dubai Courts.

The algorithm-based analytics software generates reputation reports based on social and traditional media material.

However some experts say such tools are often inadequate because of the nuance of language.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said she should not comment at this time.

Spotter's UK sales director Richard May said the company monitored material that was "publicly available".

Its proprietary software uses a combination of linguistics, semantics and heuristics to create algorithms that generate reports about online reputation. It says it is able to identify sentiment with up to an 80% accuracy rate.


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