Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Dispatches: Don't Go to North Korea, a New Poll, and Facebook Lab Rats

To steal a bit from Bill Maher and his HBO show, "Real Time:"

New Rule--If you're an American, don't go to North Korea.

The Korean Central News Agency announced today Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle, who were both nabbed earlier this year, will be put on trial, "for committing hostile acts confirmed by evidence and their own testimonies." They are the third and fourth Americans arrested by the North Koreans since 2012.

Kenneth Bae was popped in November of that year. He got 15 long of hard labor. Korean War veteran, Merrill Newman was detained late last year and was let go only after he signed a "confession" in which he admitted he fought in the conflict against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Miller was arrested for rash behavior, which wasn't a real stretch. When he hit the border he tore up his visa and asked for shelter in the DPRK. It is highly doubtful he is, at the moment, enjoying the type of shelter he was expecting, although when you're looking for asylum in a place like North Korea there is no telling what is going on in your mind.

Fowle was accused of acts inconsistent with the purpose of a tourist visit. He allegedly left a bible behind in his hotel room. I suppose one could interpret that as a hostile act, although to do so you'd have to be a bureaucrat in a paranoid Stalinist state run by a bizarre de facto monarchy. Unfortunately for Jeffrey Fowle, North Korea is just that.

There are a lot of places on this bright blue ball to go see, but why the northern half of the  Korean peninsula would be on any one's list is a bit beyond comprehension. Obviously the only American who can get out of there without being arrested is Dennis Rodman and honestly, now that Kim Jong-un knows for sure he doesn't have Barack Obama's ear, even Rodman might not make the cut.

Meanwhile, speaking of Barack Obama a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has hit the internet. According to the numbers 41% of Americans approve of the president while 45% disapprove of him.

That's certainly is great news for John Boehner and the rest of the crew gumming up the works isn't it? Well, not really. The same poll shows a mere 7% of Americans have confidence in congress. That sort of figure is usually reserved for used car salesmen and loan sharks. Obama's rating in the same category is 29% and the Supreme Court's is 30%. Only 29% of those polled view the republicans favorably, while 45% see them unfavorably. The numbers for democrats, while a little better than the GOP's, aren't awe inspiring. Their favorable number is 38% and the unfavorable figure is 40%.

Finally, the public in general and 600,000 Facebook users specifically, found out someone besides the NSA is watching what they were doing. According to NBC, in 2012 researchers, with the approval of Facebook, altered the social media's content, manipulating the news feeds of users without their knowledge. This was during a psychological study which was trying to determine if the negative feelings of others can affect someone elses mood. The test was grandly titled, "Experimental Evidence of Massive Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks" and was just published by the National Academy of Sciences.

While not nearly as nefarious, or deadly as, say, MK Ultra, the outraged reaction to the secret study stunned the researchers. So much so in fact, one of them felt compelled to apologize to the unwitting participants via--you guessed it--his Facebook page.

Facebook isn't going to be liable for this little exercise in lab rat science. No, you can't can't count on slicing a piece out of Zuckerberg's big ol' pie. That's because their terms of use contract--you know--that page hardly anyone reads while they are signing up, tells you they can pretty much do whatever they want with your posts and FB history.

Welcome to the 21st century, baby.

Hey, if you're on line, someone is watching and what you say never goes away. It is the price we pay for the world wide web.

sic vita est


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