Chrome will begin to block bad ads on February 15

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  • Chrome will begin blocking offending ads on February 15.
  • The offending ads include those that flash, play audio unexpectedly, and take up an entire page.
  • Sites will be given 30 days to get in compliances before ads are blocked on Chrome.

Advertisements are everywhere. Every time you leave the house, ads bombard you on the radio and the side of the road, If you stay in, you’re similarly assaulted when you’re watching TV, playing a game, or surfing the web. Ads are so pervasive that it’s the goal of some people to get rid of as many of them as possible. There are web browsers out there that block ads natively, but you might not expect Chrome to be one of them.

Google announced in June that Chrome would begin to block ads early in 2018. It’s not blocking every ad, though. Google joined the Coalition for Better Ads earlier this year and will use its standards for how the industry should improve ads for consumers. If a website doesn’t abide by those rules, Chrome will block ads on the site. This extends to ads from Google’s own advertising network.

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So, what kind of ads will be banned? As it turns out, they’re the ones people hate the most. Among them are full-page ad interstitials, ads that play sounds unexpectedly, and ads that flash quickly. While those might be obvious choices, not every ad will be. For that reason, the Coalition for Better Ads launched the Better Ads Experience Program. The program lays out guidelines for sites to display ads in a way that works for both the consumer and the site showing them.

Google will begin to block the offending ads on February 15. After 30 days of failure to adhere to the new standards, ads are removed. If Google does block ads on a site, the offender can submit their site for re-review after it fixes the issues.

What do you think of Google’s new ad blocking policy? Does it go too far? Not far enough? Let us know down in the comments.

Smartphone VR: Another 3D fad or the real deal?

This is the second in the three-part series looking at 3D imaging. In the first, we looked at why every time “3D” has failed to become totally mainstream. Today, 3D is back and trying to make a splash in mobile devices – this time in the form of “virtual reality.” Is VR — especially on smartphones — going to be a long-term success, or just another example of a 3D fad?

VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and similar “tethered” products have made great strides in the last few years. So-called “mobile” VR headsets, like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream, have been even more successful (or at least more widespread). They’re basically head mounts for your smartphone with some optics thrown in, and lately it seems like everyone is making one. But will it stick?

Having just looked at the fanfare-and-failure cycles of 3D in general, should we really expect VR to really have staying power? Will it make a big splash and then fade just like its predecessors?

Wikipedia A Samsung VR conference in 2016

At heart, VR headsets are stereoscopic “3D” displays, with the all same potential problems and an added twist. It’s “virtual reality” because it lets you look around at, and interact with, this illusory three-dimensional world. That requires displaying the correct images to create a stereo effect, figuring out where the viewer is actually looking, and changing the image to match in real time. 

At the heart of it, VR headsets are stereoscopic 3D displays, with the same potential problems as every other example of the species.

If you move your head to look behind something, then that something had better move out of the way in your field of view, just as though it were really there. VR requires combining a convincing stereoscopic display with the sensors and graphics processing power needed to render and update your virtual view in a smooth, convincing manner. This is part of why I said that augmented reality is an even bigger challenge: if you’re going to, say, place an imaginary creature on a real tabletop, then not only do you have to render the creature correctly but keep it in the proper relationship to its real-world surroundings.

A dedicated, “tethered” VR headset can pull off all of its assigned tasks pretty well. Connecting it to a standalone computer, which could be anything from a barebones notebook to IBM’s Watson, means you can throw as much processing power as you can muster at problems. But the simple fact that it’s a product designed solely for the purpose of VR means that it has displays, optics, head-tracking systems, and so forth than could all be optimized to that goal. That’s not to say these products are going to be the perfect answer, but they’ve at least got a big leg up on the other option.

Editor’s Pick

That other option is “mobile” VR, which is typically a plastic mount with straps to go over your head and lenses over your eyes, and you supply the rest— namely a smartphone, which provides the displays, processing, and position sensing needed to create a virtual world. This is, in my not-so-humble opinion, a remarkably bad idea.

That “s” on “displays” wasn’t a typo. Yes, your phone only has the one display, but here it’s forced to play the role of two. Left-eye and right-eye images have to be shown simultaneously, and it’s up to the optics in the headset to deliver those correctly to the eyes. That means only half the pixels on the screen are available for each image, which leads to an aspect ratio and resolution charitably described as “less than optimal.”

A Galaxy S8 features a 5.8″ 2960 x 1440 OLED screen at 570 PPI. It’s a really nice smartphone display in anyone’s book, but close to a 2:1 aspect ratio. Splitting it in two in a VR headset means each eye gets an almost perfectly square display to use. That’s not good when we’d really like to have a wide field of view. The human eye uses something roughly equivalent to a 5:3 aspect ratio (of course, it’s also not a nice clean rectangle, but rather a sort of fuzzy oval).

There are two ways to fix this. You could use the full area of each half, displaying pre-distorted image on the square space and relying on the optics to stretch the image to the desired wider area— the same sort of trick used in anamorphic movies. However, If the distortion introduced into the image isn’t exactly what the optics were designed to “undo,” you’ve got problems. The other option is to just not use the full height of the display. If, on the S8, we have a 1440 x 1440 space for each image, but we want, say, a 16:9 view, we could just center a 1440 x 810 image in that space and it would be good to go, albeit at well under half the phone’s full resolution.

We could just demand a higher resolution in our phone screens. “But Bob,” I hear you protest, “didn’t you just tell us a few weeks ago that packing more pixels onto a phone was a bad idea?” Yes, I did. That article also generated some comments which took me to task for ignoring the needs of VR. But that was my point: smartphone display choices should ignore VR, at least as a top priority.

Smartphone display choices should ignore VR, at least as a top priority

Phone-based VR headsets represent the entry level in the VR market. They suffer from too many compromises already to be the choice for serious VR users, and paying for the extreme levels of screen resolution needed to address just that one issue makes no sense. As good as they are, smartphone graphics processing and position/orientation sensors just aren’t up the task of matching what you can do with a dedicated headset and tracking hardware.

Again, consider the Galaxy S8. It’s got an MSRP of more than $700—over $200 higher than Samsung’s own Odyssey VR/MR headset, which features dual 1440 x 1600 OLED displays coupled with a full array of cameras, motion and position sensors, integrated headphones, and adjustments for interpupillary distance. Putting a higher resolution display in a phone just for VR is like paying to put a Ferrari engine in a Toyota Prius. Sure, you’d get a lot more power, but the platform just isn’t meant to do what you want. You’re better off just buying the product meant for that use in the first place.

Graphics processing burden goes up literally geometrically with increased resolution, which isn’t the best idea for a battery-operated device.

We could even put a 4K display into a phone, and get a great resolution for each eye. The graphics processing burden goes up geometrically with increased resolution. Even if you build the added power into the processor, it just isn’t the best idea for a battery-powered device. Phone-based VR is best for what it was supposed to be: a quick and relatively economical means of introducing VR into the consumer market. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking it’s the right answer for the serious VR fanatic.

It’s not like dedicated VR headsets are perfect either. They still suffer from all of the other problems we’ve described earlier with stereoscopic displays, with the additional concern that motion tracking and its resulting view is never going to quite match what we see in real life. VR is getting a lot of attention in education circles, to name one interested market, but how long will that love affair last if kids get severe eye fatigue from using it?

24th Air Force

There’s a way around even that concern, though. All we need is a display that can produce a real three-dimensional image, one that actually has the appearance of solid objects occupying space, and without any glasses, headsets, head tracking, or any of those burdens. We’ve even already seen examples of this; surely everyone by now has seen a hologram. You’ve probably even got a few in your wallet, on your credit cards.

So when can we replace our old-fashioned flat displays, and free us from all this stereoscopic nonsense?Stay tuned.

I finished The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

Of course you can’t actually finish an open world game. Even if you used the game’s internal 100% completion counter, that still doesn’t cover all the content there is. So when I say I “finished” the game, I’m using the goals that I set for myself: Do all 120 shrines and kill the end boss to get to the closing credits. I did a lot of other content, but for example not all Korok seeds, of which there are far more than you actually need.

I still think Zelda – Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest games ever. I really liked all the discoveries, the open world without invisible walls made possible by the ability to climb vertical surfaces, and the numerous puzzles everywhere. I would have preferred a less action-centric combat system, but I appreciated that it wasn’t so hard that I would have needed more skills than I have in button-mashing. My biggest gripe with the game is that the sensor you get at some point to find shrines or resources you have previously photographed is terribly imprecise and unclear. Some of the shrines I could only find by looking them up on the internet, for example because they were in a cave half way up on a cliff face hidden behind a breakable wall, with no quest giving you any hint that they were there. But then you don’t actually need all 120 shrines to finish the game, so that is hardly a big problem.

My biggest mistake in this playthrough was keeping all my gems. Yes, there is a quest rather late in the game where you can sell gems for more money than usual. And yes, you can use some gems to upgrade some armor. But the gem-selling quest pays only like 10% extra, and you don’t really need to upgrade all your armor to maximum. I only upgraded the ancient armor to maximum, which both gives very good defense and even adds to offense when using ancient or guardian weapons. Most other armor sets need only to be upgraded twice to get the added set bonus. The armor class is mostly irrelevant for armor that you wear for other bonuses, e.g. for faster climbing or swimming. If I had sold all gems found earlier, I would have spent less hours farming materials which I only used to make elixirs which I then sold.

Ending the game produces an automatically saved game marked with a star, which has some added features like the completion counter I mentioned. Besides that some DLC content unlocks only after having done the four divine beasts, so I haven’t done that yet. However I’m not yet convinced that this DLC content is worth doing, as a lot of it appears to be somewhat grindy in nature, like the gauntlet of 45 levels of the Trial of the Sword. I think I will at least try some of that stuff before stopping to play. And I do consider that I might want to play the game again from the start after a while. However I won’t play in Master Mode, because I tried that and it just made combat incredibly hard, which isn’t what I am looking for.

I don’t regret having bought a Switch to play Zelda, but now it might be time to give some other Switch games a chance.

8 Legitimate Grounds for Congress to Initiate Impeachment Proceedings Against Trump

Widespread corruption, abuse of power and a threat to our republic.

As we demonstrate in a new paper, The Legal Case for a Congressional Investigation on Whether to Impeach President Donald J. Trump, based on publicly reported information, as of today there are at least eight grounds for the House of Representatives to authorize the Judiciary Committee to begin hearings on whether to impeach President Donald J. Trump.

This paper presents a legal analysis based on the text, structure and history of the Constitution and federal law, and legal and political precedent, that we have developed in consultation with a wide range of experts over the past ten months. Some of the grounds for investigation are based on violations of specific enumerated constitutional or statutory provisions, but in keeping with the intent of the Founders and the 200-year history of impeachments, other grounds are based on abuses of power that do not fall easily within a specific proscription.

Here are the grounds for investigation.

1. Obstructing justice.

Beginning soon after the inauguration, the president engaged in a course of conduct that sought to obstruct justice in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigations of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and of his own campaign’s potential involvement with Russian activity in the 2016 election.

2. Violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Through his businesses in the United States and abroad, the president receives payments, regulatory approval, and other forms of direct and indirect financial benefits from foreign governments. These violate the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits federal officials, including the president, from receiving a “present” or “emolument” from any foreign government or official. The president’s businesses also act as a conduit for enrichment from federal and state government coffers. These violate the Domestic Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from receiving, beyond his official salary, any emolument from the United States or any state.

3. Conspiring with others to commit crimes against the United States involving the solicitation and intended receipt by his presidential campaign of things of value from a foreign government and other foreign nationals, and to conceal those violations.

In the 2016 election, the senior officials of Trump’s presidential campaign (including his campaign chairman, his son and his son-in-law) met with Russian nationals after an invitation to receive compromising information about his campaign opponent, Hillary Clinton, that they were told would be of great value to the campaign. Federal campaign finance law prohibits a candidate or campaign from soliciting a foreign national (including a foreign government) for a thing of value. In 2017, after this meeting was revealed, President Trump personally dictated a misleading public statement on behalf of his son about the intended purpose of the meeting.

4. Advocating illegal violence, giving aid and comfort to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and undermining constitutional protections of equal protection under the law.

Over the course of 2017, the president has made a series of public statements that together, constitute a pattern of conduct violating his constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” protect the citizenry against “domestic violence,” and ensure “the equal protection of the laws.”

5. Abusing the pardon power.

The president’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joseph Arpaio, who had been convicted of criminal contempt of court for willfully violating a court order to stop violating the constitutional rights of Latino drivers, abused the pardon power by sending the dangerous message that similarly inclined unscrupulous law enforcement officials could not only violate individual rights, but could violate court orders requiring them to stop violating those rights with impunity because the president would support them.

6. Threatening nuclear war against foreign nations, undermining and subverting the essential diplomatic functions and authority of federal agencies, including the Department of State, and engaging in other conduct that grossly and wantonly endangers the peace and security of the United States, its people and people of other nations, by heightening the risk of hostilities involving weapons of mass destruction, with reckless disregard for the risk of death and grievous bodily harm.

Through a series of public statements (including on Twitter), and beginning particularly in the late summer of 2017, the president has made increasingly reckless public threats against North Korea. It is not clear whether President Trump understands the ramifications of his actions. While the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, reckless or wanton conduct with the potential for millions of deaths constitutes an abuse of power.

7. Directing or endeavoring to direct law enforcement, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to investigate and prosecute political adversaries and others, for improper purposes not justified by any lawful function of his office, thereby eroding the rule of law, undermining the independence of law enforcement from politics, and compromising the constitutional right to due process of law.

The president has repeatedly pressured federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute political adversaries, including former campaign opponent Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. The president’s attempts to employ the criminal investigative powers of the federal government against political opponents for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office are grounds for impeachment.

8. Undermining the freedom of the press.

The president has repeatedly attacked major U.S. news organizations as “fake news” and the “enemy of the American people.” The president is certainly free to criticize particular news stories he believes are inaccurate, and no one tweet in isolation constitutes an impeachable offense. But his consistent pattern of attacks undermines a critical foundation of a free society.

Purpose of Impeachment

Some of the impeachable offenses discussed in the paper overlap with the criminal investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller; some overlap with other pending federal litigation; others do not overlap with any parallel proceeding. However, as our paper explains, an impeachment investigation is entirely separate from a criminal or other judicial proceeding. The purpose of impeachment is not to punish for past crimes, but to remove from office a dangerous official who threatens the rule of law and the republic itself.

Congress must not use the Mueller investigation or other litigation as an excuse to shirk its duty to conduct its own independent impeachment hearings. The abuse of power, the corruption and the threat to our republic are here now.

 

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Anthony Scaramucci Publicly Blasts ‘Loser’ Steve Bannon During Hannukah Party Remarks

The speech was supposed to be about his pilgrimage to Israel.

On Tuesday, short-lived White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci took a jab at fellow ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon at a New York Hannukah party.

As the New York Post‘s Page Six reports, The Mooch blasted Bannon as a “messianic loser” at Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s annual Hannukah party on the second-to-last night of Jewish holiday.

As Page Six notes, Scaramucci was at Rabbi Boteach’s party to discuss his recent trip to Israel — and was also the subject of a recent controversy after his “Scaramucci Post” Twitter account published a controversial tweet poll asking how many people died in the Holocaust.

“He’s a loser,” Scaramucci reportedly said. “He’ll be a stalwart defender of Israel until he’s not. That’s how this guy operates. I’ve seen this guy operate.”

“The problem with Bannon is he’s a messianic figure,” he added. “It’s his way or the highway.”

Scaramucci also once again brought up “leakers,” the ostensible subject of his rant to a New Yorker writer over the summer that likely led to his ouster a mere 10 days after taking his press secretary job. At the Hannukah party, The Mooch accused Bannon of “leaking on everybody” in the White House.

“I’m not Steve Bannon,” Scaramucci told The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza in July. “I’m not trying to suck my own c*ck.”

 

Related Stories

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Remote access and control your PC using Android App : Android – LeaVe my baThRoom at-least !


Do you want to remotely control your PC? Android apps help to remotely access and securely control your desktop, laptop through mobile phones. To do this you will need to setup a remote desktop server on your computer. 


In this post we will take a look at 5 android apps which will help to remotely access and securely control your computer from anywhere using Internet.

1. TeamViewer

Team viewer is a remotely control app which provide spontaneous support or to remotely access an unattended computer or servers across different platforms.

teamviewer android application

Some Features of TeamViewer app

  • Support your clients and colleagues spontaneously
  • Access your office desktop with all of its documents installed applications
  • Remotely administer unattended computers
  • Easy file transfer to and from remote computer


2. VNC Viewer

VNC Viewer is a remote control app from RealVNC gives you instant remote access of your computers or servers from anywhere using your mobile.

VNC Viewer

Some Features of VNC Viewer app

  • It supports all popular desktop operating systems
  • Provide different authentication techniques to prevent unauthorized access
  • Provide backup and syn facility
  • Available online support and documentation through chat or E-mail


3. Microsoft Remote Desktop

You can use the Remote Desktop client for Android to work with Windows apps and desktops directly from your Android device.this tool only work on windows PC.

Microsoft Remote Desktop

Some Features of Microsoft Remote Desktop App
  • Support Windows OS desktop or servers 
  • Rich multi-touch experience supporting Windows gestures using RemoteFX.
  • Access to remote resources like printers using Remote Desktop Gateway (the same need to be configured on your network).
  • High quality audio and video support using advanced bandwidth compression.


4. Chrome Remote Desktop

Chrome remote desktop is a chrome browser extension which is fully cross-platform. Provide remote assistance to Windows, Mac and Linux users, or access your Windows (XP and above) and Mac (OS X 10.6 and above) desktops at any time, all from the Chrome browser on virtually any device, including Chromebooks.

Chrome Remote Desktop
Some Features of Chrome Remote Desktop
  • Able to setup screen sharing and remote assistance
  • Encrypted session using chromes SSL features including AES
  • Free to install and use at personal as well as commercial level
  • Streams audio and support copy-paste features

5. Splashtop

Last but not least we have Splashtop.It is the easiest,fastest,secure remote desktop app for accessing your Windows or Mac computer.it is easy to setup.
spalshtop
Some Features of SplashTop
  • Splashtop Business supports the Swiftpoint GT mouse for iPhone to enhance the productivity of your  remote desktop sessions
  • In session FPS settings– Experiment with these settings for the best performance on different networks and computers! 
  • Strong encryption including logging, audit trails and multi-level passwords. 
  • Business features include file transfer, remote print, chat and multi-user access.

Conclusion

TeamViewer is recommended for personal use because it is easy to use and also support screen sharing and support different operating systems. If anyone wants to perform basic remote control on windows then Microsoft Remote Desktop App is a good option.

Do you want to Learn Android Programming?

Facebook uses facial recognition to let you know when your face shows up in a picture

Facebook already uses facial recognition to some extent. Starting today, however, the social media juggernaut will expand on how it uses the technology by notifying you when someone uploads pictures with you in them, even if you weren’t tagged in them.

According to Facebook’s blog post, the idea behind Photo Review is to give you more control over your online identity by giving you more privacy settings to work with. For the time being, those settings are the only means to tinker with facial recognition, with folks being asked to grant Facebook permission to use facial recognition across the service.

This would allow Facebook to implement more features that use facial recognition, such as account recovery, though that remains to be seen. Facebook also says there will be an easier on-off switch if you find facial recognition to be more trouble than it’s worth.

As for Photo Review itself, it is powered by the same AI technology that suggest friends you might want to tag in your pictures. The good news here is that you do not have to be friends with someone for Photo Review to kick in — so long as you have friends in common, you will be notified.

When you are notified, you then have the choice to add your tag to the photo, leave yourself untagged, or report the photo as inappropriate.

However, you will only be notified of an untagged picture of yourself if you are part of the image’s intended “audience.” More specifically, the poster must set the image’s audience to “everyone” for you to be notified. The only exception to this is if the image was set as a profile picture, which is useful if you want to identify fake accounts.

Editor’s Pick

Apart from that, Photo Review could also be used to take a trip back in time. Talking to The Verge, Facebook head of privacy Rob Sherman says Photo Review nudges you about photos you might have forgotten about. From there, you basically climb down the social media rabbit hole, looking at older pictures and friends you previously didn’t engage with as much.

Facebook says Photo Review is rolling out to most regions, though folks in Canada and the EU will not get to use it due to data laws that restrict the use of facial recognition.

Reimagining the Tax Code, Getting There with Grassroots Activism

Tax policy, which can be deadly dull, hasn’t inspired much enthusiasm for activist campaigns—until now. Advocates could leverage this energy to push for a progressive tax code.

The House and the Senate have reached an agreement on the final GOP tax bill and plan to vote on it sometime next week. However, there’s still aggressive mobilization against the legislation, fueled by progressive organizations like the Not One Penny and Stop the #GOPTaxScam coalitions; Indivisible; and Americans for Tax Fairness. These groups are working hard to disrupt a tax agenda that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy, even though in all likelihood the bill will pass. Tim Hogan, spokesperson for the Not One Penny campaign, says that regardless the outcome of the bill, this mobilization is a victory “in the court of public opinion.”

Indeed, Americans are strongly against the bill: a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly half of Americans who are aware of the legislation oppose it. And tax policy activism—a rarely- seen phenomenon—has played a role in raising awareness. This surge in activism could lay the foundation for a popular movement, not just reject the GOP’s giveaway to the rich, but to work toward a new, more equitable tax code.

In September, before the Republican tax proposals were released, Prosperity Now and PolicyLink, two economic justice organizations, released a report entitled “Making the Connection: Bringing Tax Wonks and Grassroots Activists Together to End Inequality.” The U.S. tax code, the report found, is an extremely “powerful lever … to drive inequality.” But as much as the tax code expands the divide between rich and poor, the report argues, that there is also serious potential for the tax code, reimagined, to bridge it.

And, as the report makes clear, that’s where activists could come in.

Not One Penny, spawned from April’s Tax March and officially launched in August, is a coalition of almost 50 organizations, demanding “Not one penny in tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.” While the Tax March largely brought people out to protest Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, the organizers wanted to bring attention to progressive tax policies, too. Following the initial action, Not One Penny shifted its focus. This summer, with a Republican tax proposal looming on the horizon, the group began training activists in anti-tax policy organizing.

Months later, after the release of the Trump tax plan and the eventual passage of the House and Senate proposals, demonstrations are taking place across the country to protest these trickle-down economics-oriented plans. Recently, five protestors were arrested in Maine after conducting a sit-in in Republican Senator Susan Collins’s office; Collins is a potential “no” vote when the conference bill comes back to the Senate. And in the spirit of the holiday season, New Jersey activists have confronted their Republican representatives with tax-themed Christmas carols.

As the Senate debated their tax bill, groups opposing the legislation set up a “People’s Filibuster” to protest the GOP proposal. For over 30 hours and throughout the night, different organizations “sponsored” hours, inviting activists and advocates to tell their stories. The speakers warned about the damaging effects of the House and Senate proposals on specific sectors like health care and the environment, and on certain groups such as graduate students, people with disabilities, and young families.

The “Making the Connection” report suggests that these types of protests could be leveraged to advocate for fairer tax policies, as such tactics have not frequently been utilized in tax policy advocacy. The report found that while almost 60 percent of the activists it polled had recently attended a rally or protest on an issue of public concern, just 5 percent had recently attended a rally or protest related to tax policy.

The report’s authors further explain that such low mobilization in regard to tax activism could be attributed to tax policy’s “messaging problem,” as advocates and the general public commonly think of tax policy as “complex, unapproachable, and downright boring.” Major barriers to effective progressive tax advocacy include a “knowledge deficit” concerning taxes, and a lack of a personal connection to tax policy.

But not only does the tax code work to raise revenue for the government (which everyone knows about), it also helps American households build wealth (which fewer people realize). That may be because, in our current tax code, most tax benefits are funneled toward the wealthy. According to the report, the top 1 percent of households received more federal dollars than the bottom 80 percent. The mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction? The government spends almost double on those credits for wealthier households than it does on Section 8 housing vouchers or Homeless Assistance Grants.

This preference for the wealthy is hard to detect, since programs like the mortgage-interest deduction are hidden inside the tax code, helping create a two-tier welfare system, where means-tested welfare programs for the poor are visible and known, but welfare programs for the wealthy, like deductions for homeownership, education, and retirement, help the rich build wealth but exist as “tax credits,” not “welfare.” The rich are lauded for taking advantage of the tax system (think of Trump saying that not paying taxes “makes me smart”), but means-tested welfare recipients are seen as moochers.

In other words, our tax code—even before the GOP makes it incalculably worse—exacerbates the nation’s vast economic inequality, in which the richest 1 percent of households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The tax code also contributes to the racial wealth gap, where the median white family owns 12 times the wealth of the median black family.

But, it also means that the tax code could also be a major force in reducing economic inequality. To right the imbalance and “shift the benefits distributed through the tax code to working families,” the “Making the Connection” report lays out concrete steps that advocacy organizations can take to make tax policy accessible to community organizers and grassroots activists.  

This support is necessary, says Jeremie Greer, Prosperity Now’s vice president of policy and research and a coauthor of the report, “because the personal connection to [tax policy] is underneath the tax code.” Greer says that “when [people] think about taxes, they think about the annual exercise of doing their taxes,” instead of associating the tax code with programs that help them.

The tax code contains housing credits, credits for low-income working families like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. The federal government uses that revenue to help pay for programs many communities rely on. One of the report’s survey respondents said that people often don’t realize that the EITC was the reason they received a tax refund. Another said that “many people don’t understand the connection between the taxes they pay and the roads they drive on or the schools their children attend.”

Other assistance programs outside the tax code are “very straightforward,” Greer says. Food stamps are for nutrition assistance. Housing vouchers help people with their housing. And the mortgage-interest deduction “is a wonky … and governmental way of talking about something,” he says. When talking to advocacy groups, Greer simply calls it what it is: a housing subsidy, which is one way to make tax policy clearer while helping people recognize how the tax code affects them personally.

Advocacy groups have been doing an excellent job of making the consequences of the Republican tax proposals both clear and personal. Lisa Beaudoin, executive director of ABLE New Hampshire, a disability rights organization, traveled to Washington for a recent Capitol Hill tax policy protest. She says, “Helping people understand the direct implications [that this tax bill has] in their lives … gives people something to hold onto and to fight for.”

The elimination of the individual mandate would threaten health care for millions of mostly low-income people. Multiple provisions, including the elimination of the medical expense deduction, would disproportionately hurt people with disabilities. And the reduction of the corporate tax rate is widely seen as a giveaway to wealthy Republican donors (as at least one Republican representative acknowledged).  

Anti-tax bill activism and the media coverage of the GOP bills have made an impact: Only 31 percent of Americans support the tax plan. But when the battle over the Republicans’ tax catastrophe is done, what will tax activists do then? It may be easier to advocate against polices that would be detrimental to low- and middle-income families than to campaign for fairer taxes, especially since progressive members of Congress have not put forth an omnibus proposal of their own.

Economist Gerald Friedman recently made the case at AlterNet that, “progressives should resist the temptation to simply attack the GOP giveaway to the ultra-rich; instead, they should articulate their own tax plan, one that would fund needed services, promote stable growth, and compensate the unlucky, including the victims of globalization.”

Many of Friedman’s policy proposals are not new to policymakers on the left; but they have not been bundled together in an overall progressive rewrite of the tax code. They include taxing capital income (such as profits from investments) at the same rate as income from work, and mandating new penalties on income stashed in offshore tax havens. Friedman also recommends strengthening the penalties on corporations that don’t provide benefits like health insurance and instituting a tax on carbon emissions.

The report’s policy proposals center on strengthening policies that already work, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and housing policy. The EITC lifts millions of families out of poverty, but really only works well for custodial parents. Greer says that people without children, including younger workers and the elderly, should be able to benefit too.

One such bill introduced by two progressive Democrats, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and California Representative Ro Khanna, would greatly expand the EITC along Prosperity Now’s lines. The Brown-Khanna plan increases the value of the credit for working families and gives childless workers greater access to the benefit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that this proposal would lift the incomes of 47 million households.

By introducing such a congressional bill now, when the Republican majorities in each house have no intention of giving it a hearing, of course, is to lay the groundwork for a more progressive tax code if and when the Democrats return to power.

Another such proposal, Greer points out, would be to create a tax credit that benefits renters as well as homeowners. Support for families that rent could help move them into homeownership—a transformation that would be further incentivized if Congress permanently established a program like the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, which temporarily came about during the Great Recession.  

Progressive leaders can’t simply say “no” to the Republicans’ plan to alter the tax code, because the status quo isn’t ideal either. Instead, a new, progressive tax code could help eliminate income inequality, make the wealthy pay their fair share, and finally give low- and middle-income families the resources they need to lead lives that are economically secure. If Democrats can retake power and activists get the support they need to transform public tax discussions, the party could be prompted to adopt new policies (which would require reforming campaign finance to curtail the Democrats reliance on big money) to make a new tax code a reality.

 

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How Big Data Analytics Make Cities Smarter?

Smart city and big data

There has been a lot of activity around the concept of Smart City for some time. Cities are being identified as future smart cities. Theoretically at least, smart cities can fundamentally change our lives at many levels such as less pollution, garbage, parking problems and more energy savings. Though the prospect seems mouth-watering, the implementation of the smart city concept around the world has been sporadic at best because of several reasons. Whatever the stage the smart city implementation is at globally, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) have the power to drive the implementation.

Undoubtedly, the main strength of the big data concept is the high influence it will have on numerous aspects of a smart city and consequently on people’s lives. Big data is growing rapidly, currently at a projected rate of 40 % growth in the amount of global data generated per year versus only 5 % growth in global IT spending. Around 90 % of the world’s digitized data was captured over just the past two years. As a result, many governments have started to utilize big data to support the development and sustainability of smart cities around the world. That allowed cities to maintain standards, principles, and requirements of the applications of smart city through realizing the main smart city characteristics. These characteristics include sustainability, resilience, governance, enhanced quality of life, and intelligent management of natural resources and city facilities.

Big Data in Smart Cities

If major cities were to invest into smart transport systems today, then by 2030 they would save around $800 billion annually. On top of that, smart transport systems also contribute in a few other ways, including:
  • Less automobile congestion and fewer accidents
  • More advancements in faster long distance travel
  • Clean air from the reduction of pollution
  • Excess of new jobs from updates in transportation networks
  • Furthermore, any upgraded transportation option appeals to established businesses looking for a new locale, as they do to startup businesses. Any business wants to know that their workers and clients have access to efficient modern transportation. That access lowers annual budgets for businesses in terms of what they pay in gas mileage and delivery costs.
Big data tracks transportation infrastructure needs and costs helping cities define ways to expand their public transport options in the most efficient way possible. It defines what areas of the city need to open up and how receptive people are about initiatives to raise money for such a project. Cities that use this type of big data analytics are called smart cities and much of the world wants in on the innovations.
Many major cities are starting to use INRIX, a system that analyzes data from traditional road sensor networks and mobile device data. San Francisco’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission saved over $250,000 per year from the direct data collection of INRIX. 

Big Data in Law Enforcement

Contrary to popular belief, in terms of fighting crime, big data is actually allowing police and other law enforcement officers to behave less like Big Brother than more. Data analytics allows law enforcement officers to track real trouble spots and dangerous criminals.


Many local agencies are starting to use PREDPOL or predictive policing systems that collect three main data points from every report: type of crime, location and time of the incident, to make accurate officer deployment decisions in the future.

PREDPOOL



Once high criminal activities are identified, new education initiatives and outreach programs can be utilized in those jurisdictions.


Big Data in Education

The collection and analysis of big data helps educators understand which students need help, why they need help as well as identifying areas in which they excel.
Educators can provide relevant individual and group activities to support each student’s goals and needs. Teachers will be able to assess student progress on a consistent basis in order to challenge students and help them grow.
The analytics provide more three-dimensional insights of their students’ progress while allowing parents a way to understand how each child learns. 
AltSchool is one of the first K-8th grade school providing this personalized learning experience which is only available in developing smart cities such as San Francisco and New York.
altschool
The introduction of big data in the education space has encouraged students of all ages to learn remotely in the comfort of their homes. These massive open online courses collect data from millions of course takers and analyze it to find trouble areas that are causing students to fail. After analyzing millions of data points, algorithms continually updated each course to deliver an “adaptive learning experience” based on each individual’s strength, weaknesses and preferences.
These are just two examples of the many ways smart cities are adapting schools into more personalized and remote learning platforms which may change the learning experience forever.

Big Data in Health

The United Nations says that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population will be considered urban. With populations living in such close proximities, this means that health initiatives must be available to everyone no matter their background, race or economic status.
Big data can already predict the outbreaks of viruses and even track cases of depression. Smart cities will use millions of sensors that provide personalized medical services. Many citizens of smart cities will be able to activate their medical service by a mobile app or free standing kiosks throughout the city. Pulsepoint Respond is a great example of a personalized app that alerts CPR-trained bystanders of sudden cardiac arrests within their immediate area.
PlusPoint
On top of that, smart cities have already started testing systems that allow elderly patients the option to remain in their homes instead of at a nursing care facility. These type of systems include a standalone table, a tablet with Skype and wireless home sensors used for video communication between the patient and their remote caregiver.
The wireless sensors monitor the house and send alerts about safety situations such as a left-on stove or doors opening in the middle of the night. After testing this system in Oslo, Norway, the study has shown that the system can save $85,000 for each person since they don’t have to move into a nursing facility.

Big Data in Energy Usage.

Over 75% of the world’s energy consumption come from cities and 40% of municipal energy cost come solely from street lighting. Since adopting smart street lights which automatically adjust light levels to suit the needs of citizens, Lansing, Michigan saved 70% of their energy cost.
Experts predict that by 2020 there will be over 100 million of these smart light bulbs and lam>s used worldwide. Other cities like Charlotte, North Carolina have implemented smart building energy management which cut their total energy use by 8.4% and greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.
Moreover, the Spanish town of Santander installed 12,500 air pollution and RFID sensors around the city which diminished energy costs by 25% and waste management cost by an additional 20%. Smart cities are barely underway, yet they are already making substantial impact on the environment and to the citizens living in them.
Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and Songdo in South Korea are prime examples of connected cities that, using a local energy optimisation system, materialise the promises of a zero emission, zero waste model. All of the data from the sensors, spread throughout the city, are analysed in real time to optimise a number of aspects of inhabitants’ lives.


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