• You are here:
  • Home »
  • Archive: December, 2017

Archive Monthly Archives: December 2017

Not Every Hobby Has to Become a 'Hustle' – Lifehacker


Not Every Hobby Has to Become a 'Hustle'
And maybe you will, and maybe you'll enjoy it, and maybe you'll make a living doing what you love. But if you do, you absolutely will learn that the real work of your career is not the fun bit. Otherwise every good cook would own a restaurant, and

Continue reading

Grading the Cowboys season-ending 6-0 victory over the Eagles – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Blogging The Boys (blog)

Grading the Cowboys season-ending 6-0 victory over the Eagles
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Yawwwwwwnnn. Well, the 2017 Dallas Cowboys ended the season in a complete snoozefest. Dallas managed a 6-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the second lowest-scoring game in franchise history (the team's 5-0 division round playoff victory over

Continue reading

‘This is warfare on our doorstep’: what life is really like inside a London gang

Film-maker Paul Blake gave cameras to gang members and let them record themselves. What they shot was more shocking, and personal, than he expected

A new documentary will offer uncompromising access into the workings of some of Londons most brutal and notorious street gangs, using footage shot by the young people who operate within this world.

Film-maker Paul Blake managed to get a rare insight into some of the 225 gangs that operate in Britains capital, including shots of large weapons caches boasting dozens of guns and knives, and the packaging and selling of class-A drugs.

Gangland, which is split between two episodes, gained unique access by giving the cameras to the gang members themselves and leaving it up to them to film what they wanted. Blake did not even make contact with the figures, but instead would leave the cameras at pre-arranged dead drops in central London and in parks places without CCTV and where no one could be seen coming and going.

He would then pick up the cameras later, without any knowledge of what footage they would contain.

I didnt know the gang members who filmed, they didnt want me to meet them, said Blake. This was about the control and the distance, and I was happy for that distance frankly because what came back was shocking.

Commissioners told me it was an insignificant story, its not relevant to the nation. I was rebuffed at every attempt. Photograph: Maroon productions

Blake spent over a decade trying to get a documentary made which would give voice to the thoughts and motivations of gang members and help understand how boys as young as 12 were dying from gang violence, stabbings and shootings.

It was not an easy sell to commissioners he said, who continually told him that it wouldnt rate, it was an insignificant story, its not relevant to the nation. I was rebuffed at every attempt.

He added: This documentary was born from the fact that I am a black man, born in this country, and I was just pissed off that no one cared about these young black kids who are dying, they didnt care about the loss experienced by their families. Yet it could happen to me, it could happen to one of my friends kids. It deeply upset me that this was going on for years but these kids just became faceless, just another nib in the Evening Standard.

It was only in 2015 that Channel 5 commissioned the documentary. Blake, after years of building relationships within the world of street gangs, was able to find a group willing to speak to the camera and tell their stories. Yet in the midst of filming, it all went wrong. Two young gang members were sent to jail in the same week, and a week later another was shot. He survived but was taken in protective custody so filming became impossible and Blake was forced to start from scratch.

It was then he landed on the idea of getting the gang members to film themselves, to overcome the obstacle that speaking to a journalist was perceived as snitching. It proved to be a fruitful but haunting process.

A gang showing us not just what they do but why they do it is more shocking than people waving firearms around. Photograph: Maroon productions

Blake said: The first footage that came back was of the revolvers with the copious amounts of drugs. It was an entry into a world that I dont belong in, and having that distance was a reminder that my job was to help tell their story.

The young mens willingness to speak to camera (with their faces hidden behind balaclavas) and talk not just about drugs and weapons but their own motivations and aspirations came with time, and Blake considers that some of the most revealing footage he received.

I saw that they were not only showing us what they do, but also what they thought and why they do it, he said. Thats probably more shocking than people waving firearms around. Them talking about how they really wanted to make money but also put back into their community, how they just wanted to get on but if that meant taking from the next man, they would. And that wasnt a journalist or filmmaker saying that, its them saying it.

As well as offering raw and uncensored footage of moments such as drug dealers stuffing bag of drugs up their own orifices to hide them from police, the film also focuses on those individuals who are not in gangs but live surrounded by the culture and are often the ones who end up dead.

Blake found himself confronted with the awful reality of this when two young boys, neither of whom were in gangs but whom he had filmed for the second part of the documentary, both ended up dead after he finished shooting the documentary. Sixteen-year-old rappers Showkey and Myron Yarde were killed in separate stabbings. Blake said he had been completely devastated by the news.

We are telling this story so these kids are not faceless. Photograph: Maroon productions

I knew that someone was going to die just because of the way it is in that world. So it wasnt a surprise, really, but it was just incredibly sad and very hard to deal with on a personal level.

As part of his filming, Blake recorded Yarde filming a music video and recalls how excited the 16-year-old had been about making music and was waiting on his GCSE results.

The figures show that the problem of gang violence in London is on the rise again, with gang-related crime up 23% last year and over 6,000 incidents of serious youth violence this year. Blake said until people stopped dismissing it as a black problem or an issue totally separate from their own lives, the death toll would continue to spiral.

We are telling this story because it means they are not faceless, theyre not just some line in the newspaper that we all move on from instantly or dont even bother to read about in the first place, he said. This is warfare on our own doorstep and young kids are dying.

Gangland: Turf Wars is on Channel 5 at 10pm on 1 and 8 September.

Continue reading

Opioid tramadol destabilizes, fuels terror in parts of Africa, UN warns

(CNN)The illegal trade and growing abuse of tramadol, a synthetic opioid, are destabilizing parts of West Africa, especially in the Sahel region, where it is fueling terror groups and providing revenue for them to carry out attacks, UN officials and security experts say.

The nonmedical use of tramadol has become such a health crisis in areas like northern Mali and Niger that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, issued a warning this week to the international community.
The problem “is serious, worrying, and needs to be addressed as soon as possible,” Pierre Lapaque, UNODC’s regional representative in West and Central Africa, said in a UN statement. “We cannot let the situation get any further out of control.”

    ‘Think Al Capone and the liquor gangsters’

    Less stigmatized than heroin or other illegal drugs, tramadol as a prescription medication can be accessed and transported more easily, said Adam Winstock, a consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist in London and director of the Global Drug Survey.
    And it can be used as a money generator, he said.

      Why are opioids so addictive?

    “Synthetic opioid trafficking is a huge new revenue target for ISIS affiliates — think Al Capone and the liquor gangsters,” said Rebecca Grant, a national security and military analyst and president of the defense consulting firm IRIS Independent Research.
    ISIS is desperate to make money off synthetic opioid trafficking to stay in the terror business.”
    West Africa is becoming a desired market for such terror groups, Grant said. If the US military and coalition forces don’t work to break up this illicit trade, she said, they will face flourishing ISIS-linked groups in the Sahel, which includes parts of Mali and Niger as well as Sudan, Senegal, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
    “It’s a tragedy for the local communities — Americans are seeing firsthand what these bad opioids can do,” Grant said.

    ‘This is affecting the most vulnerable countries’

    Tramadol can produce similar effects as other opioid medications, such as morphine and oxycodone, resulting in a “high,” said Dr. Gilberto Gerra, chief of UNODC’s Drug Prevention and Health Branch. It also can give users a sense of detachment from reality and delusional symptoms, he said.
    Tramadol can work as a physical and emotional pain reliever and is attractive to people experiencing loss or trauma, Winstock said.
    The drug originates primarily from South Asia before organized crime networks smuggle it to parts of the Sahel under militant groups’ control, according to UNODC.
    As a result, it’s affecting security in the Sahel as well as other regions such as the Middle East, it said.

      Deconstructing Boko Haram’s bombing tactics

    “Tramadol is regularly found in the pockets of suspects arrested for terrorism in the Sahel, or who have committed suicidal attacks,” UNODC’s Lapaque said in a statement.
    “This raises the question of who provides the tablets to fighters from Boko Haram and al Qaeda, including young boys and girls, preparing to commit suicide bombings.”
    The dosage used is often four or five times higher than the recommended dose, posing strong health risks and producing serious dependency problems, according to UNODC.
    More than 3 tons of the drug were seized yearly in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNODC’s latest World Drug Report, up from 300 kilograms four years ago.
    UNODC said customs officials in Cameroon found more than600,000 tramadol tablets intended for Boko Haram in August. And 3 million-plus tramadol tablets were impounded in September in Nigeria from a truck carrying boxes with a UN logo as it headed to northern Mali, it said.
    Law enforcement officials have witnessed the drug’s effects firsthand in recent terror attacks in Mali’s capital of Bamako, said Jeffrey Bawa, program officer for UNODC’s Sahel Programme, which aims to support judicial systems and law enforcement to combat terrorism and the illegal drug trade in the region.
    “One of (the officials) stated that he saw the ‘suspected’ terrorist advancing toward them with his guts hanging outside of him, with little but no fear in his eyes,” Bawa told CNN, saying pills of tramadol were later found on the suspect.
    Militants and terror groups keep up their attacks despite efforts by government forces in the Sahel.
    “The alarm that we are raising to the international community is extremely important,” Bawa said. “The problem has in my opinion reached beyond the type fentanyl-type epidemic we are witnessing in North America — the difference being that this is affecting the most vulnerable countries of the world.”

    Continue reading

    Personio, a HR startup in Munich, closes $12M Series A

    Personio, a German startup that offers a HR management and recruiting platform, has closed $12 million in Series A funding. European VC Northzone led the round, with participation from existing investors, such as Rocket Internets Global Founders Capital (GFC) and Picus Capital. The Munich-based company plans to use the funding to further develop its Software-as-a-Service and become a leader in the HR software space for small and medium-sized (SME) companies.

    Founded in 2015 and bootstrapped to nearly 100 customers in the first one and a half years, before taking a seed round from Global Founders Capital and a few business angels last summer, Personio now claims over 400 customers and counts over 50 employees. SMEs use the platform to manage all of their HR and recruitment processes, benefiting from what the startup describes as a single view of employee management.

    On the highest level we are digitizing HR and Recruiting for SMEs to reduce administrative workload and allow HR managers to work on value-adding topics, Personio co-founder and CEO Hanno Renner tells TechCrunch. More specifically we are building an end-to-end HR Operating System that covers all processes along the employee life-cycle (recruit, manage and develop)

    The result is described by Renner as a central hub for all HR data, and is seeing the company take a platform approach by integrating with vertical players in the HR space to provide customers with the ease of only having to track information about their people at one place and then pushing them via our API.

    Concrete examples of areas covered by Personio include: a full applicant tracking system, with support for multi-posting to over 100 job boards (e.g. Stepstone, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc); a digital employee file; document and contract management; on/off-boarding; attendance tracking; absence management; salary management & payroll; and performance management and feedback.

    Renner says that typical Personio customers are European companies between 10 and 1,000 employees. However, our core segment is between 100-500 employees. Typical examples would be HelloFresh, Statista or Scalable Capital, he adds.

    Competitors are cited as Excel and paper-based files. Or more directly, European HR platforms, such as HiBob or HeavenHR, which have more of a focus towards employee benefits (similar to Zenefits in the U.S.). Instead, Renner says Personio is starting earlier in the employee life-cycle including recruiting, and provides a seamless transition of successful applicants into the HRM section.

    A lot of our customers have therefore replaced for example BambooHR and Jobvite to have everything in one tool. Besides the all-in-one approach, our main differentiator is customisability of all processes as well as a strong focus on data privacy which is critical given the sensitive information our customers store in Personio, he adds.

    Unlike many of the other new HR startups, which offer their wares for free but make money selling benefits and insurances, Personio is employing a classic SaaS-subscription model. In addition, the company has a secondary revenue stream from multi-posting on job boards and other integrations.

    Continue reading

    6 Free Tools to Help You Write Better Content this New Year – HuffPost


    6 Free Tools to Help You Write Better Content this New Year
    The site consists of all kinds of topics from blogging to marketing, small business, eCommerce, and more. You will be able to find thousands of questions and answers related to any industry and use them to come up with blog topics of your own. For

    Continue reading

    NFL Draft prospect to know: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis – Blogging The Boys (blog)

    Blogging The Boys (blog)

    NFL Draft prospect to know: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
    Blogging The Boys (blog)
    Blogging The Boys will begin taking a look at some of the NFL Draft prospects that will be in the 2018 NFL Draft class. Some weeks, we will look at potential targets that will be within the Cowboys' expected draft range. Others, we will highlight some

    Continue reading

    Mozilla invests in Germany’s Cliqz, a private search browser

    Mozilla has invested inCliqz, an anti-tracking browser with a pro-privacy built-in quick search feature. The startupcurrently targets web users in German-speaking countries where it has amassed more than 1 million active users on desktop and mobile for its Firefox-based browser and browser extension, since beingfoundedback in 2008.

    Cliqz founder and CEOJean-Paul Schmetz tellsTechCrunchthe planis to take Cliqzto other countries in future although he did not specify a timeframe for that expansion. He also wasntcommenting in more detailon the aims of the Mozilla partnership, at this stage.

    The size of Mozillasinvestment is not being disclosed either but the pairsaid todaythat itbecomes a strategic minority investor. The Munich-based startup has beenmajority-owned by international media and techcompany Hubert Burda Media since 2013.

    The Cliqz browser, which is also available as an extension for Mozillas Firefox browser, has its own search index which the startup says sets itapart from pro-privacy rival DuckDuckGo, for example.

    Schmetz argues that pro-privacy browsers that dont have their own index another example isU.K. startup Oscobo, which licenses search results from Bing/Yahoo are likely to be passing users IP addresses to the search providers when they send queries. Making them rather less private, given how IP addresses can be used to track individuals web usage.

    Cliqz has also built its ownanti-tracking technology whichdoes not rely on block-lists(as a servicelikeDisconnectdoes), but rather works by community consensus filtering of unsafe content.

    Another flagship feature for Cliqz isa built-in quick search which lets users search directly in the browser so they dont need to detour to a separate search engine, as they put it. Its not a fully fledged page of detailed search results but returns a selection of suggested websites with Cliqz arguing it is useful for navigation searches, which of course make up the vast majority of search clicks.

    If for example Cliqz users would like to carry out extensive research, they can easily forward their search to the additional search engine within the browser. They then only need to use search engine results (leaving data and seeing adverts in the process) if they really need them,adds Cliqzs Thomas Konrad.

    The Cliqzsearch engine isfed by user data to improve its recommendations. However it says community contributions to itsweb stats havetechnically guaranteed anonymity notingits claims can be audited via third parties thanks to anopen source code base.

    The Cliqz browser for Mac and Windows launched in March this year, andis built on Mozillas open source Firefox framework. Its also available on mobile, as an iOS or Android app. The Cliqz Firefox extension launched earlier, in June 2014.

    Whats the business model?

    So how does a browser that does not harvest and track user data propose to make money? By alsokeepingmonetization effortslocal to the users device via a Cliqz Offers app, currently in the works, with a push rather than pull structurefor sending relevant offers out to users.

    The Offersappworks by analysing browser data (such as browsing history) to detect a users interests but doingso locally, on their device. TheCliqz Offers serverbroadcasts all offers available and each users Offers app only pulls in what is relevant for them. The browser then displays the offer, so Cliqz says this privacy-by-designstructuremeans that no interest signal or other data will ever leave the browser.

    The communication between the Cliqz Offers Application and the Cliqz Offers Server doesnt contain any personal or personally identifiable information and is routed via a proxy server to guarantee anonymity, addsKonrad. Personal data stay where they belong: on the device, in the ownership and under the full control of the user. With Cliqz Offers, Cliqz will prove that targeting users by their interests is not in contradiction to privacy and that a free product is possible without exploiting personal data.

    Our business model does not need tracking because we are on the users device and their intents/interests remain there. The advantage of the browser is that it doesnt need to track server-side, notesSchmetz.

    Mozilla is the ideal company for Cliqz to work with because we both believe in an open Internet where people have control over their data. Data and search are our core competencies and it makes us proud to contribute our search and privacy technologies to the Mozilla ecosystem, he adds in a statement.

    Also commenting in the investment in a statement, Mozilla SVP Mark Mayo added: Mozilla is excited to work with Cliqz because we see how their products align with the Mozilla mission. We are proud to help advance the privacy-focused innovation from Cliqz through this strategic investment in their company.

    Continue reading

    Rez’s Trance Vibrator Changed the Conversation About Women’s Sexuality in Games

    Fifteen years ago this month, the beautifully synaesthetic Rezwas released for the first time in the United States. Beyond theTron-esque aesthetic that helpeditbecome one ofour absolute favorites, though, the game was notable for its unforgettable peripheral:somethingcalled the Trance Vibrator.

    The odd little battery-pack shaped devicewas never released in theUS; it wasthe sort of strangeness that was, at the time, entirely the purview of the Japanese side of gaming. The Trance Vibrator’sonly function wasto buzz and bump in time with the on-screen music, delivering haptic feedback alongside the audio track’s bass. But in doing so, it became the flashpoint for a discussion of sexuality in games that not only stands as one of the finest pieces of videogame writing, but casts a shadow over the discussions that have followed. Surprisingly little writing since has tread similar ground, which demonstrates how much has—and hasn’t—changed in the years since.

    In a famous interview, designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi called the trance vibrator “a joke, but a very serious joke… We always listen to music by ear, and you can watch the visuals moving, the dynamics in Rez, so it’s kind of a cross-sensation feeling.” In the same interview, Mizuguchi insisted that the device wasn’t sexual or intended as a sex toy. Of course, quite a few players got other ideas. Players, for example, like Jane Pinckard, critic, writer, and current Associate Director at the Center for Games and Playable Media at UC Santa Cruz. On the blog GameGirlAdvance, she wrote about her experience playing Rez with her partner. After trying it herself, she decided to let him handle the gameplay while she focused on the peripheral. In a short, matter-of-fact piece, she talked about finding and following an obvious connection between Mizuguchi’s “cross-sensation feeling” and her own sexuality. In her own words:

    I was so excited by Rez’s Trance Vibrator, since it seems to have no other purpose than to act as a masturbatory aid. Its shape is pretty nice, it can slip easily under your skirt or in your panties, it comes with a protective “glove” which you can wash, and it emits a regular pulsating rhythm that gets ever more intense and thrilling the deeper you go into the game. Damn, by the end I was writhing on the floor! Synesthesia indeed.

    Am I wrong? Has anyone else found a better use for it?

    A Frank Discussion of Female Sexuality In Games

    Female sexuality is rarely discussed frankly in popular culture, and even more rarely so in tech, which, along with her mastery of image and brevity, is what makes Pinckard’s piece so noteworthy. She posited, in 2002, that Rez might have been designed, intentionally or unintentionally, as a means by which a woman’s sexual pleasure could entangle itself with play, music, light, and sound—that it could be, in short, an integrated part of a gaming experience.

    I wasn’t in the field when the piece first ran, so I can’t speak to its initial reception, but it remains a memorable bit of videogame writing in a field with a short memory, so much so that it’s referenced essentially every time anyone writes about the Trance Vibrator. As a teenager who would later realize she was a trans woman, I remember the piece leaving quite an impression on me, as well, when I first read it. It seemed to be uncharted territory, for games and for the way people talked about them. An image of a more frank, inclusive, and playful videogame scene.

    The conversation around women’s sexuality in games has certainly shifted, but I can’t confidently say it’s all been for the better.

    Revisiting the piece now, it’s striking how much has and hasn’t changed. The conversation around women’s sexuality in games has certainly shifted, but I can’t confidently say it’s all been for the better. There has been clear progress—conversations about the representation of women in gaming and their role in the gaming audience is more prominent than it’s ever been, with advocacy organizations like Feminist Frequency doing important work to call out the limiting and sexist ways women are often portrayed and discussed in games. But there’s also been a clear backlash, a wave of regressive voices trying to minimize the role of women in games and insisting that videogames are—and should remain—a safe haven for the interests of men, sexual and otherwise.

    The Current Discussion of Female Sexuality in Games

    Now, nearly three years after Gamergate, serious discussion around the sexuality of women in games seems stuck between two modes: pessimistic and reactionary. You can see it any time any depiction of female sexuality in games makes the rounds. Take, for instance, the recent revelation by Blizzard that Tracer, the mascot character of multiplayer shooter Overwatch, is a lesbian, with a conventionally attractive redheaded partner. On the one hand, reactionary voices sounded off with horror that Blizzard had, in their eyes, sold out their straight male fans and embraced an invasive, unwelcome progressive agenda. On the other, many serious-minded progressive videogame critics responded with skepticism, doubting Blizzard’s intentions and questioning whether their depiction of Tracer’s queerness was appropriately progressive.

    Don’t get it twisted: the regressive view here is much, much worse. There are no false equivalencies to be made between sexism and pessimism. And the pessimism is not unwarranted, considering that the gaming industry is still dominated by major corporations that employ many more men than they do women. Blizzard’s primary interest is to make money, full stop; everything else is secondary at best. My point is just that those two reactions, as the primary means of engagement, leave little room for another response that, if not somewhere between the two, is at least somewhere to the side.

    When the conversation turns into an attempt by all sides to label something as basically good or bad, when prominent voices in the still-male-dominated field of gaming criticism go so far as to suggest that a depiction of a lesbian isn’t progressive enough because a straight man might enjoy it (because lesbians can’t like conventionally attractive women, I guess?), little space is left for any conversation that dares to center the pleasure of women in the way Pinckard’s piece did 15 years ago.

    There are exceptions, of course. There are sex-positive videogames like Ladykiller in a Bind, written specifically from a woman’s perspective, and smart works like Cara Ellison’s old S.EXE column for Rock Paper Shotgun or Maddy Myers’ brilliant pieces on Bioshock Infinite porn games and the dominatrix kinkiness of Bayonetta.

    But perspectives like Pinckard’s, that deal with a woman’s sexuality in terms both frank and affectionate, focusing on the lived experience of a woman’s sexual pleasure, still feel like the exception instead of the norm. And whenever I think about the Trance Vibrator, I remember that those perspectives might be even more contentious now than they were 15 years ago.

    Continue reading

    Who Designed The Costumes For JAY-Z's "Family Feud?" Ayanna James Is Behind Your Fave 'Insecure' Looks – Bustle


    Who Designed The Costumes For JAY-Z's "Family Feud?" Ayanna James Is Behind Your Fave 'Insecure' Looks
    “I had no idea that you could make money shopping,” James said in an interview with HBO about her work with Insecure. “But I realized I had a talent and a gift. Every day I am happy to come to work because I know it is very rare for me to get this

    Continue reading
    1 2 3 11