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In FBI Versus Apple, Government Strengthened Techs Hand On Privacy

The ongoing fight between Apple and the FBI over breaking into the iPhone makers encryption system to access a persons data is becoming an increasingly challenging legal issue.

With a deadline looming, Apple filed court papers explaining why it is refusing to assist the FBI in cracking a password on an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino shooting. CEO Tim Cook has declared he will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The tech company now wants Congress to step in and define what can be reasonably demanded of a private company, though perhaps it should be careful what it wishes for, considering lawmakers have introduced a bill that compels companies to break into a digital device if the government asks.

But there is an irony to this debate. Government once pushed industry to improve personal data privacy and security now its the tech companies who are trumpeting better security. My own research has highlighted this interplay among businesses, users and regulators when comes to data security and privacy.

For consumers, who in coming years will see ever more of their lives take place in the digital realm, this heightened attention on data privacy is a very good thing.

The heart of the case is the phone of a suspect in the San Bernardino shootings. Reuters

The Business Case For Better Privacy Grows

Not too long ago, everyone seemed to be bemoaning that companies arent doing enough to protect customer security and privacy.

The White House, for example, published a widely cited report saying that the lack of online privacy is essentially a market failure. It highlighted that users simply are in no position to control how their data are collected, analyzed and traded. Thus, a market-based approach to privacy will be ineffective, and regulations were necessary to force firms to to protect the security and privacy of consumer data.

The tide seems to have turned. Repeated stories on data breaches and privacy invasion, particularly from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, appears to have heightened users attention to security and privacy. Those two attributes have become important enough that companies are finding it profitable to advertise and promote them.

Apple, in particular, has highlighted the security of its products recently and reportedly is doubling down and plans to make it even harder for anyone to crack an iPhone.

Whether it is through its payment software or operating system, Apple has emphasized security and privacy as an important differentiator in its products. Of course, unlike Google or Facebook, Apple does not make money using customer data explicitly. So it may have more incentives than others to incorporate these features. But it competes directly with Android and naturally plays an important role in shaping market expectation on what a product and service should look like.

These features possibly play an even more critical role outside the U.S. where privacy is under threat not only from online marketers and hackers but also from governments. In countries like China, where Apple sells millions of iPhones, these features potentially are very attractive to end users to keep their data private from prying eyes of authorities.

Consumers are demanding more security, something Apple has taken to heart. Reuters

Regulators Hum A Different Tune

It is clear that Apple is offering strong security to its users, so much so that FBI accuses it of using it as a marketing gimmick.

It seems we have come a full circle in the privacy debate. A few years ago, regulators were lamenting how businesses were invading consumers’ privacy, lacked the proper incentives to do so and how markets needed stronger rules to make it happen. Today, some of the same regulators are complaining that products are too secure and firms need to relax it in some special cases.

While the legality of this case will likely play out over time, we as end users can feel better that in at least in some markets, companies are responding to a growing consumer demand for products that more aggressively protect our privacy. Interestingly, Apples mobile operating system, iOS, offers security by default and does not require users to opt-in, a common option in most other products. Moreover, these features are available to every user, whether they explicitly want it or not, suggesting we may be moving to a world in which privacy is fundamental.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has promised to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court if he must. Reuters

Data Sharing Gets Complicated

At its core, this debate also points to a larger question over how a public-private partnership should be structured in a cyberworld and how and when a company needs to share details with either the government or possibly with other businesses for the public good.

When Google servers were breached in China in 2010, similar questions arose. United States government agencies wanted access to technical details on the breach so it could investigate the perpetrators more thoroughly to unearth possible espionage attempts by Chinese hackers. The breach appeared to be aimed at learning the identities of Chinese intelligence operatives in the U.S. that were under surveillance.

Information sharing on data breaches and security infiltration is something the government has widely encouraged, last year passing the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 to encourage just that.

Unfortunately, various government agencies themselves have become self-interested parties in this game. In particular, the Snowden disclosures revealed that many government agencies conduct extensive surveillance on citizens, which arguably not only undermine our privacy but compromise our entire information security infrastructure.

These agencies, including the FBI in the current case, may have good intentions, but all of this has finally given profit-maximizing companies the right incentives they need to do what the regulators once wanted. Private businesses now have little incentive to get caught up in the bad press that usually follows disclosures like Snowdens, so its no wonder they want to convince their customers that their data are safe and secure, even from the government.

With cybersecurity becoming a tool for government agencies to wage war with other nation-states, it is no surprise that companies want to share less, not more, even with their own governments.

The Battle Ahead

This case is obviously very specific. I suspect that, in this narrow case, Apple and law enforcement agencies will find a compromise.

But the Apple brand has likely strengthened. In the long run, its loyal customers will reward it for putting them first.

However, this question is not going away anywhere. With the Internet of things touted as the next big revolution, more and more devices will capture our very personal data including our conversations.

This case could be a precedent-setting event that can reshape how our data are stored and managed in the future. But at least for now, some of the companies appear to be or least say they want to be on our side in terms protecting our privacy.

Rahul Telang, Professor of Information Systems and Management, Carnegie Mellon University

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This YouTube Channel Is Popular But Could They Be Abusing And Exploiting Their Kids?

YouTube is the most popular place online to watch videos, and you can find pretty much any kind of content.

It’s opened the door for us to be able to see into the lives of anyone with a camera who wants to document what happens every day. An incredibly popular genre on YouTube is the “family vlog,” or video blogs about a family’s antics. Sometimes they just follow whatever happens, and sometimes they’re more controlled or scripted. Either way, it’s a cool way to get to know what other families are up to.

One such family vlog is called DaddyOFive, and with more than 750,000 subscribers, they’re incredibly popular and make money on ad revenues. After one of their recent videos, however, people are raising concerns that this family might be an abusive one.

In this screenshot from a now-deleted video, the parents are yelling and cursing at one of their children after finding ink all over his carpet. This was actually a “prank” set up by the parents, who eventually tell the boy that it’s not real after he becomes visibly distressed.

Many were shocked by the video, claiming it constituted emotional abuse, which put a spotlight on some of the family’s other pranks, too. Often they involve cursing at or belittling the children, and they can even get violent.

The parents claim that everyone is in on the joke and that the children receive far more benefits from their YouTube participation than negative effects. Furthermore, they say Child Protective Services has already visited their home and cleared them of any wrongdoing.

Read More: Cops Walked In And Saw A Chain On The Door. What Was Behind It Was Devastating.

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Careful subscribers are quick to point out, however, that one of their children often bears the brunt of the jokes. Cody winds up being hit by his siblings and cries about not wanting to be filmed or blamed for things he didn’t do in the “pranks.” It’s upsetting to see a child so clearly hurt by these actions. If you look closely at this image, you can see what looks like blood on his pillow.

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Around the world with travel bloggers – The Statesman


The Statesman

Around the world with travel bloggers
The Statesman
But for a living, you need money so then the idea of blogging came to me. Slowly the articles started getting … The youth these days love interacting with locals, learning new customs, making new friends and absorbing culture." Women bloggers are not …

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Dak Prescott for MVP in 2017? One NFC scout thinks so – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

Dak Prescott for MVP in 2017? One NFC scout thinks so
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Blogging The Boys' own Tom Ryle read Arizona Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians' new book. In his book, titled “The Quarterback Whisperer: How to Build an Elite NFL Quarterback”, Arians lays out the different aspects that make a great quarterback in

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Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Sam Altman invest $30 million in Change.org

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman announced today that hes making a big bet on Change.org, the site for social justice petitions. Hoffman is leading a $30 million round, with other investors including big names likeBill Gates and Y Combinator president Sam Altman.

Change.org, the global hub for collective action, is a crucial democratizing force in this era of growing civic participation, wrote Reid Hoffman on LinkedIn. It helps enable a world where you dont need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you.

The organization was founded in 2007 by CEO Ben Rattray. Since then, almost200 million people around the world have used the site to raise awareness for arange ofcauses, includinghuman rights, the environment, education and health issues.

Rattray wrote a post about the global mission. We are in the early stages of the development of a new, more participatory form of democracy, and in order to realize the potential that technology has to transform civic engagement, we need to build tools that give us wider reach and enable deeper involvement, he said.

The proverbial tongue-in-cheek in Silicon Valley is that people want to buildthings that change the world. This one actually does.

But theyre not a nonprofit, theyre a business. They make money by charging companiesand nonprofits to sponsor petitions, whichthey say brought in $20 million in revenue per year. Unfortunately, that wasnt enough to keep them from laying off 30 percent of their staff in September.They have since introduced crowdfunding, which has generated millions of dollars of revenue.

This isnt the first time that Hoffman bet on the Change.org team.In 2014, hewas part of a large group of high-profile investors, including Richard Branson, Ashton Kutcher and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams.

Theyve raised more than $42 million dating back to 2012.

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How I Ditched Debt: Making Sense of Cents – Nasdaq


Nasdaq

How I Ditched Debt: Making Sense of Cents
Nasdaq
Schroeder-Gardner, now 28, says she and Wesley, who works on the blog with her, make money through advertising, affiliate marketing arrangements with companies that pay for referrals, and her online course on how to make money from blogging.

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La'el Collins has agreed to a two-year extension with the Dallas Cowboys – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

La'el Collins has agreed to a two-year extension with the Dallas Cowboys
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Blogging The Boys Blogging The Boys, a Dallas Cowboys fan community. Log In or Sign Up · Log In · Sign Up · Fanposts · Fanshots · Sections; Library; Cowboys · Odds · Shop · About · Masthead · Community Guidelines · StubHub; More. All 319 blogs on.

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5 Bizarre Misconceptions Femme Lesbians Deal With In The Dating World

Lesbians are often divided into two (very dated and overly-simplistic) categories: femme and butch. Since the moment I came bounding out that dark, repressive closet, the jury quickly charged me with being a femme.

Oh my God, youre such a FEMME! seasoned lesbians would roar at me as I nervously sat in the corner of the lesbian bar alone in my high heels. Was I deemed a femme because of the high heels? Or was it my impeccably polished pink nails? Or the oxblood red lipstick and the mountain of mascara caked to my long, fluffy eyelashes? All of the above?

As I grew more comfortable in the scene, I began to recoil at the word femme. Im NOT A FEMME! I would yell as if being a femme lesbian werea terrible, taboo thing to be. I was so dramatically averseto being considered a femme because I didnt want to be considered dumb. I wanted to be taken seriously, damn it.

So why did I think femme was synonymous with being a brainless joke? Oh, because I, like so many girls, had a lifetime of internalized sexism stewing inside of me.

See, we lesbians came of age in the same misogynistic society as everyone else. We were spoon-fed the same sexist narrative as our heterosexual classmates. Our sexual orientation didnt protect us from the notion that femininity equals weakness. Meekness. Superficiality. Stupidity.

For a moment, I even considered dialing back on my signature smokey eyes, the glitter-infused Urban Decay eyeliner and the waist-length hair that made me feel both sultry and safe at once (two positive feelings I happento wildly enjoy).

And now, I fall to my knees and thank my higher power, Lana Del Rey, that I didnt ever change. I couldnt change; my inherent desire to dress up spoke louder than my desire to fit in.

Dressing like a pop singer every day brings me joy. And to deprive yourself of feelingbecause youre afraid that certain women in your community will undermine your intelligence? Well,honey. Thats letting the patriarchy win. And Im trying really hard to not let the patriarchy win.

Now, I own the word femme like I own the words dyke and slut. I think being hyper-feminine is awesome, and if you want to make assumptions about my character based on my personal style, I dont care to rub elbows with you anyway.

It took me awhile to get here. But Im finally here and its so much better on this side. The side of self-acceptance is so much sweeter than the side of conformity despite the sweeping generalizations and crazy misconceptions that constantly swing your way when you let your femme flag fly.

Here are some of those generalizations and misconceptions that I, as a femme lesbian, have been subject to:

1. Im a high maintenance snob.

I wasnt sure I could date you when I first met you! I mean, I was attracted to you, but you really freaked me out, a woman wearing a $400 Theory blazer confessed to me after her third Grey Goose Martini.

Why? I asked, taken aback.

She tugged at her silver Rolex. I thought you were a high maintenance snob.

Why? I asked once again as I slugged back my $6 house wine. I was wearing a $15 Forever 21 minidress, wishing we had gone somewhere less expensive because I only had $150 to my name.

Well I dont know. The way you dress! She laughed like she had drawn the most obvious conclusion in the world. Meanwhile, I was baffled.

Lets do the math here: The intimidatingly brazen woman in the designer blazer who insisted on only drinking the top shelf vodka, who also happened to be sporting a watch the same price as a down payment on a house, was saying she thought me, the smiley 20-year-old in the cheap dress clumsily sipping her cheap wine, was a


2. Im not politically aware.

I cant tell you how shocked my ex-girlfriend was to learn how fired up I get about politics when we first started dating.

I just didnt think you would be so radical! she squealed as I dived into a deep debate with a bartender about abortion.

Contrary to popular belief, you can be both in tune with whats happening in the world, wildly opinionated about whats happening in the world, and really fucking angry about whats happening in the worldhyper-passionate about quilted Chanel clutches and gel manicures.


3. Im not really gay.

The authenticity of my sexuality has been questioned since the moment I stepped out of the closet. A girl in college was afraid to date me because she didnt want to get her heart broken by a girl clearly going through a phase.

Look, honey, not to get too graphic or anything, but if you have sex with women, youre queer AF. Style and sexuality are two VERY different things.


4. I take hours and hours and hours to get ready.

I wasnt lying when I said I fiercely love fashion, baby. Ive been throwing on dresses and slapping on lipstick for so many years; I have this whole getting ready routine down to a science.

My full hair and makeup are complete before youve even finished blow-drying your side bangs.


5. I make money simply by batting my lashes and blogging.

I dont where the rumor comes from, but somehow its circulated that girly girls dont have a work ethic. When really, in my experience, girly girls tend to have an insanely impressive work ethic, one that exceeds all genders and stereotypes.

Do you know much hustle is required in order to be taken seriously in the workplace when your feet are strapped into platform, patent leather Mary Jane shoes?

Ive never experienced discrimination because of my gender in the workplace, amore masculine-presenting female friend of mine once revealed over a confessional glass of wine.

Well, yeah, thats because you look amazing in pantsuits and talk sports with the boys, I blurted.

My friend paused for a minute. Youre right, she thoughtfully responded. I get treated like one of the guys. When I think about it, they treat the girls in dresses like bimbos.

(Disclaimer: Im in no way saying masculine-presenting women have it any easier than feminine-presenting women. Im also not declaring that every work environment favors masculine energy, or that every masculine-presenting woman is teeming with male privilege. Its always case by case. And every girl, regardless of her sexual orientation, has to face her own unique set of hardships. This is just experience as a femme living in New York City in 2017, baby.)

I dont know. I just thought you, like, blogged! adate once said to me when I explained to her that I spent the day studying analytics, editing longform articles and brushing up on my SEO knowledge. I didnt know you worked so hard.

If only, I muttered, thinking about the gruesome hours it takes to write a well-written viral article, plus the hours of coaching yourself to not be crushed and terrified by the sexist cyberbullies who write you lovely private messages like I hope you get raped and die, only to be paid significantly less than your male counterparts for the same job, but who, of course, dont deal with a fraction of the daily harassment and abuse from internet trolls.

Its not just my world, either. When I go the lesbian bar with other girls adorned in frilly dresses, there tends to be a collective shock when the femmes say theyre CEOs, doctors and lawyers. I can see it on peoples faces: As if one has anything to do with the other.

So, listen up. I LOVE being a lesbian. I love my community. I gaze into the mirror every single day and thank my higher power (Lana Del Rey) for making me gay. Most queer women open and accepting. But that doesnt mean were safe from the insulting tropes about feminine women.

And it really just goes to show that no matter what scene youre in, whom youre attracted to, or how marginalized of a community you are, femininity is still all too often seen as less powerful, less monied, and less intelligent than masculinity.

And thats got to change because that rhetoric isnt only tired; its toxic. Its damaging. Its reductive! Its exhausting.

My point? You can wear all the crop tops in the world, you can paint your lips in the hottest shade of PINK lipstick ever created, and still be an ambitious boss who pays her own way in this world. Loving pretty things doesnt mean youre not putting in hours of grueling work.

After all, my collection of Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick doesnt pay for itself. Ive worked for my cherished collection of cruelty-free designer lipsticks.

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‘Faithless electors’ explain their last-ditch attempt to stop Donald Trump

With the body poised to confirm Donald Trump as the next US president on Monday, a handful of faithless electors explain why theyre putting up a fight

On Monday, the 538 members of the electoral college will gather in state capitols across the country to cast their votes for the next president of the United States. With 306 electoral college votes under his belt to Hillary Clintons 232, that person will almost certainly be Donald Trump.

The iota of doubt that remains comes from an unprecedented eruption of discontent from electors, the body of 538 people chosen by the two main political parties to cast the electoral college vote. Under the peculiarities of the American system, the president is not chosen directly by a one person-one vote policy: indeed, Clinton won the popular vote on 8 November by some 2.9m ballots.

Instead, it is the indirect electoral college vote, parceled out by a complicated formula and awarded to the candidate who won each state, that is the final arbiter of who occupies the White House. This year, at least eight of the 538 have indicated that they intend to break ranks with modern tradition and vote against their party in a protest directed squarely against Trump.

All but one of those rebels are Democratic, which is not coincidental. Many of these Democrats see the electoral college as the last-ditch hope of stopping Trump the idea being that if their example can encourage their Republican fellow electors to follow suit and rally around a compromise alternative candidate, the Trump presidency can yet be abated.

The chances of that are exceptionally slim. The only Republican rebel to come out so far is Christopher Suprun, an elector from Texas. On the Republican side, nobody knows the extent, if any, of a potential uprising by electors beyond him. A survey by Associated Press found little enthusiasm among Republican electors for joining the rebellion.

Yet the Harvard law professor Larry Lessig said this week that at least 20 Republican electors were seriously considering defecting. No names of that elusive 20 have emerged and no one knows how many will actually carry through with the protest by voting for an alternative Republican to Trump.

All that we do know is that 2016 will go down in the history books as a seismic year for the electoral college. Here, six of the so-called faithless electors who intend to rebel on Monday explain in their own words what is driving their historic action.

Polly Baca, 75, Colorado

Faithless
Polly Baca. Photograph: Facebook

In June 1968, I was in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when Robert Kennedy, who I was working for as a campaign staffer, was assassinated. Kennedy was my hero and I was devastated by his death.

But the despair I had then doesnt even come close to how Im feeling now. Today Im afraid for my country. Im afraid that we will be propelled into another war. My fear of Donald Trump is that his intent is not to ensure that the US is solid and safe and a leader in the world, but to aggrandize himself and make money.

I had the privilege when I was younger of going twice to the Soviet Union as a guest of the American council of young political leaders. I learned there that the main factors that distinguish a dictatorship are efforts to destroy freedom of assembly and freedom of speech and the press. Those are precisely the same freedoms that Trump has been attacking relentlessly.

As electors, we have the responsibility to stop him. I would love to see 37 Republican electors vote for Hillary Clinton on Monday after all, she did win the popular vote. But if we cant get that, then I am willing to support a viable Republican alternative.

Christopher Suprun, 42, Texas

Though Donald Trump won my state of Texas, Im intending to write in a different Republican candidate when I come to vote. I havent decided yet who that will be.

I know that I am not alone. There are other Republican electors who are considering voting for a not-Trump candidate who have talked to me about it. I am very comfortable that I will not be the only Republican on Monday voting according to their conscience.

Christopher
Christopher Suprun. Photograph: Evans Caglage/The Dallas Morning News

Donald Trump is a demagogue. He is not thinking about our national well-being or security. Rather he appears to be profiting from foreign connections that are forbidden under our constitution.

Our founding fathers specifically created the electoral college to protect smaller states from the tyranny of the majority. Electors should have a deliberative role otherwise, why not just use jelly beans or bricks to deliver the final decision?

Since I announced my intention to vote according to my conscience, I have received about half a dozen death threats against me and my family. More happily, a person Ive known for years who traces his ancestry back to the American revolution told me he thinks his forebears would have been proud of what Im doing, which made me feel pretty good.

Bret Chiafalo, 38, Washington state

Stopping Donald Trump is an emergency. Its a moral imperative we simply have to prevent a man like Trump from being elected to the presidency.

Theres thousands of reasons why I say that. He has shown himself repeatedly on Twitter, in his phone call to Taiwan that overturned decades of diplomacy, in his clear ability to hold a grudge about the smallest of slights, that he is incapable of controlling his feelings. Such hot-headedness can cause wars.

Bret
Bret Chiafalo. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Id also point to the way he seems to be influenced by foreign powers. The founding fathers specifically warned us about that when they framed the electoral college. Russia is only one such example of the conflicts of interest that stand between Trumps business holdings around the world and the countrys interests.

It is assumed that electors must just vote sheep-like for the party candidate who wins their state. But I believe in the rule of law. Between the constitution and Federalist 68 Alexander Hamiltons treatise that sets out the purpose of the electoral college it is clear that we have the duty to block anyone who is unfit for the presidency.

I stand to be fined up to $1,000 by the state of Washington. Thats a lot of money. But a thousand bucks versus a moral imperative no contest.

Levi Guerra, 19, Washington state

When I signed up to be an elector in May it was at a time of great conflict within the Democratic party between Hillary Clinton supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters. But we all managed to come together around one promise: no Trump. That was the pledge I made when I joined the electoral college that I would do everything I could to block Trump.

Levi
Levi Guerra. Photograph: Courtsey of Levi Guerra

This is the first time Ive been old enough to vote in a presidential election. I expect elected officials to keep their promises and I think it would be wrong not to hold myself to the same standard.

So Im doing everything in my power to keep that pledge. That means casting my electoral college ballot not for Clinton, who won my state of Washington, but for a compromise Republican candidate who other Republican electors can rally around to stop Trump getting elected. This is not about the Democratic or Republican party; it is about unifying us all for the benefit of the country.

For the longest time, the electoral college has been a mysterious thing for so many Americans. Since our action started, many more people have started to think about the system and debate how it could be used to protect what we hold dear.

Vinz Koller, 53, California

Ive been in DC this week and I went to look at the original Federalist Papers and in particular Federalist 68. Theres something about seeing the actual documents, realizing how prescient the founding fathers were. They certainly knew about the threat of foreign influence, about how foreign powers seek to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.

Faithless
Hillary Clinton and Vinz Koller. Photograph: Barbara Kinney/Hillary for America

I leapt when I read that. Its what we have right now: a candidate who during the campaign invited the Russians to spy on us and use cyberwarfare against our country. Donald Trump encouraged that to happen, and the evidence that we have suggests thats precisely what Russia did. It strikes me as remarkable that documents that are more than 200 years old could have anticipated something like that happening.

The founding fathers also feared what they called the little arts of popularity. I take that to mean populism and demagoguery. They were afraid of a snake oil salesman running for the highest office and frankly, thats what we got.

Monday will be a test of what the electoral college was created for. If ever theres a moment in which we should be exercising our power to act in the face of danger, it is this one.

Micheal Baca, 24, Colorado

People have called me a faithless elector. I want to push back on that: Im a conscientious elector or faithful elector. I believe Im being faithful to the constitution by being true to my conscience, rather than just being a rubber stamp.

I believe Donald Trump to be a demagogue and that the majority of Americans would have a different Republican in the White House. Thats not overturning the result of the election that the Republicans won, but it is standing up to a clear and present danger.

Micheal
Micheal Baca. Photograph: Courtesy of Michael Baca

So I am putting my country above my party and coming together with Republican electors. The hope is that we can unite around a more responsible Republican to lead this country.

When Bret Chiafalo and I came together over social media to form the Hamilton electors, some time around 3am on 9 November, we knew this would be a long shot. But since then the odds have moved considerably in our favor.

Weve sparked a national debate. People are starting to understand that electors are individuals, not just numbers on the map.

Whoever is inaugurated as president on 20 January, I will fully support them and respect the office they hold. Even if that person is Donald Trump. I want our country to be the greatest. But at least Ill know that I did everything I could, through sheer will and a heck of a lot of help.

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George A Romero: the zombie master whose ideas infected American cinema

With his satirical masterpiece Night of the Living Dead the director revolutionised low-budget film-making and inspired an epidemic of imitators, from World War Z to 28 Days Later

He was the film-maker who invented not merely a genre, but a whole grammar of can-do, low-budget American independent film-making. George A Romeros 1968 masterpiece Night of the Living Dead was a crisply shot monochrome horror made for less than $120,000 and loosely inspired by Richard Mathesons story I Am Legend; the movie is about a zombie uprising apparently caused by contamination from space. The virus brought back from a far-off planet has caused recently deceased people to return from the dead and prey upon the living. They need to eat flesh. The term used in the film is ghoul but zombie became universally used later to describe the phenomenon which Romero had created.

His lethally brilliant satirical nightmare behaved insouciantly, as if it was nothing more than a very effective shocker, scaring up big profits from thrill-seeking young moviegoers. But it succeeded in denouncing American consumerism, conformism, careerism and the countrys own secret fear of the future. The science age and the age of prosperity these were things that the US was theoretically embracing, but nurturing a puritan fear that something awful was on the way, some terrible punishment not included in the Book Of Revelations. The image that George A Romero conjured up in Night of the Living Dead was truly hellish: people driven to eat each other, never satisfied, always existing in a waking-catatonic state of hunger and thirst and bestial hostility. Americans wanted new stuff, and they were employed by corporations who needed to sell new stuff. Always the new car the new kitchen the new washing machine

Romero had taken the traditional image of the zombie and made of it a key contemporary image of horror and despair. Zombie-ism as a folk belief among African slaves in Haiti had long been thought to have a political dimension: the horrifying idea of a dead body rising from the grave is the one thing an oppressed people might have to scare the oppressor. Cases of reported zombie-ism became widely and excitably reported in the US during the American occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Romeros genius was to intuit a way of evolving this zombie-ism. First they were used in Haiti to scare America; now America was using them to scare itself.

Romeros wildly successful film brought with it a string of sequels including Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, as well as other microbial strains of epidemic horror, such as his The Crazies and his vampire film Martin. But Night of the Living Dead also inaugurated a new strain of low-budget horror, and a business model for exploitation film-making which was robustly profitable for decades. Generations of film-directors who wanted to make a scary movie knew that zombies were the easiest and most inexpensive to put on camera. You needed a lot of extras, and they could with relatively cheap-and-cheerful makeup be made to look grisly and gory. Then they had to shuffle along looking bestial. And they could be filmed in long-shot. An awful lot easier than werewolves or vampires. And these films could make money.

In the last 20 years, Romeros zombie genre was reinvented and gussied up in various ways. Danny Boyles 28 Days Later put zombies back on the map, making them scarier and more athletic able to run, in fact, which gave them a new edge on the uninfected. And Edgar Wrights madly successful Shaun of the Dead tapped explicitly into Romeros strain of black comedy. Then came the massive worldwide smash World War Z and the TV show The Walking Dead. George A Romero had very mixed feelings about these colossal hits; he described himself wistfully as someone who used to be the only guy in the zombie playground. But once the big names moved in, few were interested in his own new pitches for modestly budgeted zombie movies, in which the satire thrived by being left implicit. It now had to be a high-concept top-heavy blockbuster with the social commentary squeezed out. His zombie films were lean and mean; but Romero was worried that these flashy big-money zombie 2.0 and 3.0 spectaculars were just lumbering on without a beady eye on the state of the nation. Could it be that without Romero, the zombie genre was getting well zombiefied?

Increasingly, Romero can be seen as a brilliant satirist and I think his zombies arent so much like vampires or werewolves or the Frankenstein monster. They are the heirs of Jonathan Swifts Struldbrugs in Gullivers Travels, the grotesque human beings who cannot die, who are immortal, but without eternal youth, and just get older and more ravaged, and yet ever more malign and greedy in their unending old age. Both Swift and Romero had a brilliantly sharp and tactless sense of the hubris and arrogance in their own polite societies.

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