One of the factors that makes the Net Neutrality fight so urgent is how little competition there is in the telcoms sector; it -- like the whole modern economy is dominated by a few giant, top-heavy firms that are gobbling one another at speed.
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Stanford's Futurity interviews Stanford Law expert Ryan Singel and International Studies expert Didi Kuo about the meaning of a non-Neutral internet, and the pair make an excellent and chilling point about the subtle, profound ways that Ajit Pai's rollback of Net Neutrality rules to pre-2005 levels will distort and hobble the future internet.
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We just bought a house here in Burbank and I was delighted to learn that my new home office -- part of a business incorporated in the state of California -- would be sitting directly on one of the scorching-fast fiber optic lines that the city of Burbank maintains to wire up Disney, Warners and the other major businesses in town. Finally, an end to my long nightmare of slow, balky internet from Charter/Spectrum, my local cable monopolist!
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Al Franken's speech on big tech and its surveillance, influence, opacity and high-handedness sometimes lacked coherence (you can't call for "Net Neutrality principles" for Amazon, Google, and Facebook and ask them to police bad speech, propaganda, etc), but the important thing is where he gave that speech.
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After hunting for two years, collector Austin McConnell found a 1940s Monopoly set that gives us a hint of what wartime was really like.
Manufacturing Monopoly during WWII wasn't easy, as materials were scarce and the cost to produce such a game was extremely high. In fact, the supply scarcity was the catalyst to John Waddington Ltd's Monopoly War Time edition. Take a look at the quality of the game in this video – the game pieces (the hat, car, horse, etc) were cheap cardboard cutouts mounted on small crude wooden blocks, the dice were replaced with a cardboard spinner, and the real estate cards and money were printed on really cheap stock. The set came with an apology note for the game's poor quality. I wouldn't have thought a video about Monopoly could be that interesting, but McConnell's presentation is fascinating. Read the rest
Last January, a 28-year-old law student named Lina Khan published a 24,000-word article in the Yale Law Journal unpicking a half-century's shifts in anti-trust law in America, using Amazon as a poster child for how something had gone very, very wrong -- and, unexpectedly, this law student's longread on one of the most technical and abstract areas of law has become the centerpiece of a raging debate in law and economics circles. Read the rest
The US aviation industry is highly concentrated, with only four major airlines left in the country; for years, they've been lobbying to get rid of the FAA and take over their own safety oversight. Read the rest
Average US inflation since 1995 has been 2.2%; in the same time, cable TV prices have increased by 5.8% per year on average. Read the rest
Tea Party-dominated states across America passed laws banning cities from providing high-speed internet access to their residents, even in places where the cable/telco duopoly had decided not to sell broadband; last year, the FCC issued an order stating that these laws were null and void. Read the rest
In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012: 72,000 small US manufacturers shut down; as did 108,000 local retailers and 13,000 community banks (fully half of America's complement of small banks!). The number of US startups has dropped by 50% since 1970. These statistics are not the result of the changing times: they're due to massive, monopolistic corporations stacking the deck against small competitors through unfair and corrupt practices, to the detriment of American growth, equality and democracy. Read the rest
Everyone knows Monopoly is a bad board game (unless you play with alternate rules). It also takes hours to play, even after the runaway player has been identified. This graph says it all:
Monopoly Deal is a $5 card game that takes 15-20 minutes to play and has lots of player interaction, and no mind numbing roll-and-move mechanic. Many of the 110 cards in the deck look familiar (money, properties, utilities). There are also action cards which can be used to collect rent, steal another players' property, cancel an action card, or used as money. Best of all, even the richest player is at risk of losing, so everyone stays interested in playing till the end.
I think the standard rules are fine, but I'm curious if anyone has come up with their own house rules? Read the rest
Here's how to make a bad game worse for everyone:
With a second monopoly completed, your next task is to improve those properties to three houses each, then all of your properties to four houses each. Six properties with three houses will give you more than half of the houses in the game, and four houses each will give you 75% of the total supply. This will make it nearly impossible for your opponents to improve their own property in a meaningful way. Keep the rulebook nearby once the supply gets low, as you will undoubtedly be questioned on it. At this point, you will be asked repeatedly to build some friggin' hotels already so that other people can build houses. Don't.
At this point, you more or less have the game sewn up. If losing a normal game of monopoly is frustrating, losing to this strategy is excruciating, as a losing opponent essentially has no path to victory, even with lucky rolls. Your goal is to play conservatively, lock up more resources, and let the other players lose by attrition. If you want to see these people again, I recommend not gloating, but simply state that you're playing to win, and that it wasn't your idea to play Monopoly in the first place.
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America's largest ISPs took the chickenshit step of agreeing to voluntarily police copyright on behalf of the movie studios and record labels, with a "six strikes" system that involves a series of ever-more-dire warnings and punishments for unsubstantiated copyright complaints from Big Content. Here's a preview of the final stage of the punishment regime at Verizon:
“Redirect your browser to a special web page where you will be given several options. You can: Agree to an immediate temporary (2 or 3 day) reduction in the speed of your Internet access service to 256kbps (a little faster than typical dial-up speed); Agree to the same temporary (2 or 3 day) speed reduction but delay it for a period of 14 days; or Ask for a review of the validity of your alerts by the American Arbitration Association.”
Verizon’s “Six Strikes” Anti-Piracy Measures Unveiled
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The McDonald's sponsorship deal at the Security Games in London meant that Olympic workers are not allowed to buy chips (AKA fries) unless they come with fish. A chorus of complaints from site workers has led to a relaxation of the sponsorship terms so that workers (but not visitors) can buy their chips from the vendor of their choice, even if they're not served with fish.
From The Guardian's Robert Booth:
It all results from one of the stranger twists of Olympic planning. McDonald's sponsorship deal included the exclusive right to sell chips in and around Olympic venues. Other caterers had negotiated special rights to serve chips with fish – but not chips on their own, or with anything else.
Cue frustrated scenes at the lunch counter in the ceremonies catering area where staff were toiling over the staging for Danny Boyle's 27 July opening extravaganza. "Please understand this is not the decision of the staff who are serving up your meals who, given the choice, would gladly give it to you, however they are not allowed to," read a notice pinned up by staff. "Please do not give the staff grief, this will only lead to us removing fish and chips completely."
"It's sorted," said a spokesman for Locog. "We have spoken to McDonald's about it."
But the embargo will hold in other areas. That means no chips with anything other than fish anywhere else in the park unless spectators dine at McDonald's.
I know a couple of people on the lighting and automation crew at the Security Games and they report that there's a mass lunchtime exodus from the site by its workers every day as they troop off to find anything to eat that isn't McDonald's. Read the rest