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JANUARY 21, 2020  /   SUBSCRIBE
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SEASONED NUTS: QUOTABLE
“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

IN A NUTSHELL: MUST READ

I Can View Clearly Now Your Rights Are Gone

That slippery slope of privacy invasion is really a mudslide. Once it was taboo to use facial recognition technology because of its radical erosion of privacy. But in the past year, without public scrutiny, more than 600 law enforcement agencies have started using the product of a tiny start-up called Clearview AI, whose app matches faces to images it collects from across the internet.

Clearview’s founder is 31-year-old Hoan Ton-That — an Australian techie who moved to the US to follow his dreams. In 2016 he met Richard Schwartz, a former aide in the 1990s to Mayor Rudy Giuliani. With Ton-That’s tech knowhow and Schwartz’s Rolodex of important contacts, the idea for a facial recognition business was born. A program was designed that could automatically collect images of people’s faces from across the internet, such as employment, news and educational sites, and social networks including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Venmo. Never mind that the policies of those companies prohibited such scraping. 

The backbone of Clearview’s system is this database of the more than three billion images it’s obtained. Upload a picture of a person and Voila! you get to see public photos of that person along with links to where the photos appeared. The app is designed to be paired with augmented-reality glasses; users potentially would be able to identify every person they saw, not just their names and where they lived, but what they did and who they knew. 

MIXED NUTS: QUICK TAKES ON WORLD NEWS

Mike Coppola via Getty Images

The Lyin (African) Queen

A Border Crossing Warmup In Mexico

  • Under pressure from President Trump, Mexico has cut off migration routes to the US. Mexican National Guard troops with riot shields tried to stop part of a several thousand-strong caravan of migrants, mostly from Honduras, by denying them access into Mexico from a bridge over the Suchiate river on the southern border. But several hundred migrants jumped into the water and tried to climb the river bank, and it appears that a number of those were able to breach police lines and enter Mexico.
  • Many of the migrants say they are fleeing violence, poverty and high murder rates.
  • Mexico has said they can stay and work in Mexico and apply for asylum but will not be allowed free passage to the US. One migrant said: “They’re trying to trick us. They tell us to register, but then they deport us.” Trump reached a deal with Mexico last June to stem the flow of migrants to the US, after threatening the country with high tariffs. (BBC)

Additional World News

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NUTS IN AMERICA

Samuel Corum via Getty Images

Most Of The Nation, Under God. Definitely Divisible. 

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling in a case involving separation of church and state is expected at the end of June. The religious rights case will be argued Wednesday; if a majority of justices rule in favor of the plaintiffs, it will have huge implications for US schools. Montana is one of thirty-eight states with a constitutional provision that forbids public aid to any “church, sect or denomination.”
  • Plaintiffs and other advocates of religious school funding argue that the no-aid to religious institutions provisions in place in these states are so-called Blaine amendments, written into the majority of state constitutions in the 19th century as a form of anti-Catholic discrimination. Montana disagrees, noting that the state adopted a new constitution in 1972 and kept the no-aid provision, believing it would protect religious freedom by preventing the government from gaining influence over religious schools and weakening public schools.
  • Opponents of government support for religion as well as public educators have expressed alarm at the possible ramifications of a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. Such a decision could lead to requiring state funding for religious education or other activities.
  • The Trump administration is backing the plaintiffs in the case. Trump needs to keep the support of evangelical Christian voters for his 2020 reelection; at a recent rally in Florida he pledged to bring prayer back into public schools. (Reuters)

Trump Heads To The Swedish Meet Halls

  • President Trump will arrive in Davos, Switzerland Tuesday, where he will deliver a speech to a group of executives, financiers and foreign dignitaries at the World Economic Forum just hours before the Senate is set to begin the first full day of his impeachment trial.
  • Trump is holding a series of meetings with world leaders over the next two days, but how much of his attention will be centered on the meetings and how much on developments in the impeachment trial remains to be seen.
  • The president will have the chance to tout US economic growth and recent trade deals with China and Mexico, elements his campaign views as key to his re-election bid. But as past foreign trips have proven, Trump will likely have a hard time putting politics aside; his overseas journeys are often overshadowed by controversies playing out back home.
  • But since he’s scheduled to spend less than 48 hours on the ground in Switzerland, he should be back in Washington in time for his team to present their defense. (NBCNews)
  • The Davos Plutocrats Warm Up to Trump (NYT, $)

Additional USA News

LOOSE NUTS: FASCINATING NEWS 
Carpe Sodium: Seize The Name

  • For years, monosodium glutamate, a food additive known as MSG, has been branded as an unhealthy processed ingredient mainly found in Chinese food. Despite a lack of supporting scientific evidence, the perception is so widespread that the Merriam-Webster dictionary even has an entry for the term “Chinese restaurant syndrome” — a condition with symptoms like dizziness and palpitations that allegedly affects people eating “Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate.”
  • Activists argue this perception is outdated and racist, and they’ve launched a campaign called “Redefine CRS.”
  • Headed by Japanese food and seasoning company Ajinomoto, the online campaign has released a video with several Asian American figures, restaurateurs, and medical professionals speaking out against the misconceptions surrounding MSG and Chinese food.
  • The campaign urges Merriam-Webster to change its entry to reflect the scientific consensus on MSG — and the impact of misinformation on the American public’s perception of Asian cuisine. (CNN)

Loose

LAST MORSELS
“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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