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Comment Re:Did Zuckerberg ever have to get past HR? (Score 1) 716

Leave the hire, fire, and promote decisions to the managers.

This is already how it works in every company with which I'm familiar. The sad thing, however, is that there is a significant impact from the obstensively procedural/administrative input from HR.

This comes in 2 broad forms:

  1. The disproportionate reaction to poor outcomes. Poor people decisions (of which hiring/firing are perhaps the most visible) are the worst kinds of management mistakes you can make in terms of impact on the organization as well as your career. Following HR 'recommendations' is very effective political cover for the mistakes that every manager will eventually make at some point. This effect is very closely related to a broader category of manager behavior, an example of which that most /.'ers would be familiar with would be 'Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM'.
  2. The administrative burden that can be imposed by HR cannot be understated. If HR discards CVs that do not match formal qualifications, or simply declines to forward them unless they're specifically requested, or requires some sort of formal procedure to bypass protocols to make hires against formal qualification requirements, they can effectively make broad categories of hiring decisions even if the authority rests solely with the hiring manager in theory. They may not be able to decide who is hired, but they can effectively decide who cannot be hired via obstructive policy. Management time is precious, and for various reasons HR processes designed to minimize time wasted on non-viable candidates are rarely evaluated for their false negatives (broadly speaking, false negatives are difficult to detect by nature and detection only reflects badly on HR, who is also the only entity consistently in a position to try to measure this, so there is a strong inherent conflict of interest a work here).

Due to the above the issue is much more subtle and difficult to address than you would think, even if C-level execs and HR department heads genuinely want to address it.

Comment Re:Did Zuckerberg ever have to get past HR? (Score 1) 716

Yes, but at this point I'm 29, married, and have to consider the disruptive effect that would have on my family. Also, given my industry experience and exposure, an MBA from Harvard would instantly hyper-charge my career, meaning multiple relocations (already put my wife through one of these due to my most recent promotion, with drastic changes in climate and culture) and very, very long hours at the office. Despite the popular image of fat-cat corporate bosses, my superiors are some of the hardest-working people I've ever known, and I'm coming to suspect that waiting for a reduction in family responsibilities rather than lack of experience/opportunity is the reason many did not move into higher-level positions until their kids were off to college.

Given the above, even assuming HBS would accept an undergrad dropout, I have to wonder if the seat wouldn't be better spent on someone who will give their career their undivided attention.

Comment Re:Did Zuckerberg ever have to get past HR? (Score 5, Insightful) 716

I went to Harvard and dropped out after my first year not due to having a great startup idea, but having to deal with family issues. I'm also not a trust-fund baby, as neither of my parents has a college degree, my mom's family business was destroyed by a natural distaster when I was a small kid, and my dad has always been a blue-collar worker in a low-paid line of work. My family qualified for food stamps and subsidised lunches but my parents wouldn't take either (and they're dyed-in-the-wool liberal democrats--imagine that). I grew up paying for my own school supplies, field trips, etc., from the money I made selling crops that I grew personally--my dad funded my initial startup in terms of seedstock and about $80 of fertilizer in lieu of allowance for working on the farm.

I started my post-dropout career at a $11/hr job technically classified as temporary field labor. There I helped my boss write a field data collection/productivity app on what was the closest thing to a hand-held tablet (the 2004-version of a CF-07 from Panasonic).

Second move was to a different company as a temp for $20/hr--also still considered field labor but I was expected to be able to operate a gps unit. There I set up their entire GIS system and surrounding business processes from scratch.

Several years later and I'm now in a full-time position (which had been advertised as "MBA + X years experience required") with that second company managing planning for regional operations and developing strategy and processes for a global multi-9-figure operations unit. Working on a degree through University of Phoenix just to get the piece of paper--but even when I do it'll be useless because I'm already at a level that requires at least a masters per formal requirements.

In short, it can be done. That being said, HR fought my initial hire as a full-time employee, and one person even made it her personal mission to limit my promotions and pay and to try to exclude me from consideration for potential promotions. The only reason I advanced the way I did was because my managers personally and specifically fought HR on my behalf. If I had the MBA and hadn't had that resistance from HR I'd be paid double what I'm paid today at the very least.

Here's my advice. If you are willing to start at the bottom, and earn recognition via tangible accomplishments, you can make a career in corporate America without a degree. It will require that you not only outperform your credentialed peers by orders of magnitude, but also build very strong professional relationships on the business management side such that your manager+3 will be willing to boot stomp HR on your behalf. You will in all likelihood still be undercompensated unless you are willing to jump ship and objectively prove your desirability as demonstrated by other companies headhunting you. As that is largely opposed to developing strong relationships with your managers, this is a delicate balancing act. If you are willing and able to do the same while actually having a degree you will earn much more $ at almost any large corporation . Also, do not kid yourself--people actually learn stuff in college, so you have to be willing to actively self-educate in order to be competitive.

If you want to start your own business in an industry that is not heavily credential-sensitive, and you have a capitlization plan that does not involve stuffy bankers and conservative investors, and feel that you can spare 4 - 6 years gaining experience, I absolutely recommend jumping in to industry and reading Drucker, Kaplan and Norton, etc. on your own as opposed to getting a degree. 4 - 6 years in a real career will be much more valuable than a degree once you're your own boss.

If you will "only" be a highly competent and consistent performer looking for a decent, stable job, GET A DEGREE.

Comment Re:Gene Roddenberry does it again! (Score 1) 113

Software and design patents do not actually require that you did, intend to, or even know how to implement the described invention. In practice, they do not require that you describe the invention in sufficient detail that it can be implemented based on the description. You can easily file these kinds of patents based on your imagination.

Patents based on imagination might not be cost-effective and/or easily enforcible, however, but that can be worked around by targeting 'adjacent' applications that are a logical consequence of the idea in question. For example, a direct patent on imaginary hard AI will be difficult to enforce, because it is unlikely that your imagination-based patent describes key details of any real implementation. What you can do, however, is patent all sorts of applications of hard AI, which essentially amounts to trolling through the patent database and rehashing everything into 'doing foo ... but with AI!' much in the way that we saw 'doing foo ... but on a computer/the internetz/a smartphone!', which can be highly effective and lucrative.

Comment Re:A society without an attention span (Score 1) 170

Your position ignores that sometimes there is an objectively "correct" thing to do and that sometimes, someone is objectively wrong for arguing against it.

That statement is not accurate. The only objectively "correct" things as relates to politics are facts. Interpretation of facts, determination the relative importance of specific facts with respect to a given social issue, and subsequent decisions are at the heart of politics, and there is never an objectively "correct" position for any point of that process-- it is all relative to objectives, philosophy, morality, ethics and beliefs. If you say that someone's political views are "incorrect" given a common body of facts, you are really saying that their system of values differs from yours.

Effective influencers, understanding the above, consequently spend their time trying to convince their audience as to why their view is more consistent with the audience's system of values than the opposing view. Less effective people try to get their audience to change their system of values to match their own. Unsuccessful people label their audience wrong.

Comment Re:Range data types (Score 2) 146

Strictly speaking, at minimum it would require two time fields and two boolean fields, with each boolean field specifying whether or not the interval is inclusive of each corresponding end point. It would also require a lot more than one simple constraint to get the desired behavior provided by the new datatype--and the whole mess would need to be repeated for every single interval with a simple exclusivity constraint. The new range datatype also makes it relatively simple to, e.g., specify a non-zero overlap constraint, which is significantly harder without it.

Comment Re:Range data types (Score 2) 146

It seems that you're misunderstanding the definition of a range datatype in this context. The data type of the column in the scheduling example would be defined as a timestamp range, and the constraint on the column would be that no timestamp range value can overlap with any other timestamp value in the table (or in the table for any rows that share a key value, such as user ID). There is no need to alter the column definition to accomodate changes to scheduling data.

Comment Re:Don't worry, Romney... (Score 4, Insightful) 836

While I understand (if not entirely agree with) the logic behind capital gains taxation, It's not that simple for Romney. There are smoking guns in the current returns he's released, such as the disclosure of a >$100m IRA. Given that contributions are limited to something around $50k/year (at most, assuming a self-directed IRA), that's the accounting fraud/tax evasion equivalent of having a body with a bullet hole in it. You still have to find the murder weapon to prove the crime, but there's no question that something went horribly wrong. The only way for that kind of IRA inflation to happen is if you misrepresent the value of assets you transfer through the accounting firewall into your IRA, or manipulate the value post-transfer.

There's also the question of whether he paid the proper gift tax on the transfer of $100m in assets to a trust for his sons (the existence of which is also revealed in his currently-released tax return). His own vague statements on his tax payments imply that he hasn't, because the tax resulting from that one action would have been >$30m. Gift tax is rarely audited aside from asset transfers shortly before death, so many people ignore it for both that reason and the reason that it has a statute of limitation of something like only 3 years.

Given the above, let alone the vagaries of complex and legitimately grey (as in not even the regulators know for sure whether it's OK, so no one can say for sure that they're illegal) tax avoidance strategies routinely employed in the management of that kind of accumulated wealth, it's mind-boggling why Romney released any tax returns at all. That being said, this extortion attempt is really a stroke of luck for him, as it will make the issue toxic and untouchable whereas it would probably have otherwise dogged him clear to election day.

Comment Re:No. No. Fuck no. (Score 1) 288

Not sure if you're being serious, but no, stockpiling would not help to achieve the preconditions for socialism--only reinvestment to improve society's total productivity such that society can eventually be productive enough to provide a good standard of living for all members can do that.

That said, even if we assume that society actually can achieve that level of productivity, there is no guarantee that socialism will be a desirable outcome for the productive members of society. Convincing them that it is without resorting to coercion might be an even more difficult challenge than achieving the aforementioned level of productivity.

Comment Re:No. No. Fuck no. (Score 1) 288

The problem with your argument, is that it fundamentally conflates gains in productivity with free productivity. If we used to accomplish X with N people, and we can now accomplish X + Y with N people, your assumption is that Y units are free, and therefore distributable to the general populace at no cost. This incorrect--the unit cost has been reduced, but each unit still requires investment of time and/or resources by the N people. Rather than supporting other people with their increased productivity, why should they not get to instead take an extra 2 weeks of vacation each year to produce the same X units?

Your argument is also blind to the nature of disruptive innovation, where you can have X units produced by N people suddenly becoming completely irrelevant (e.g., where X = units of buggy whips once cars became generally affordable). Presuming that buggy whip making employees owned the buggy whip workshops and companies, that does not help them at all. Their factories, tooling, processes, and skills are now largely worthless. Do the people working on cars now have an obligation to support the buggy whip makers?

Another major problem is that of control of the gains in productivity. To use your example, allowing the excess to support people who choose to indulge in sex and drugs means that the people who are still doing the work, propping the entire society up, don't get to reinvest those resources into further improving technology in order to increase their own personal leisure time and resources. Why should they do that? Even presuming the same situation in a socialist system, why should every member of society not demand an incremental increase in their standard of living rather than supporting non or negatively productive members of society? Should society provide resources to allow people to obtain drugs, or should it instead simply provide drug rehab?

Fundamentally, a socialist or communist system would not be desirable for productive members of society unless, at absolute minimum, the productivity of society is sufficient to sustain an high standard of living for every single individual. If this is not true, then universal socialism or communism would simply mean that everyone is poor/has a low standard of living. Let us call the theoretical level of societal production allowing a universally high standard of living the precondition to "desirable" socialism.

Looking at things from that perspective, let us consider the world today. There are too many people on the planet for society to provide a high standard of living for every single individual. It is arguable whether the earth actually has the resources to do so even in theory--but assuming that it does, there are only 2 ways to achieve the precondition to desirable socialism: 1) Eliminate the non/lower productivity individuals (i.e., genocide on an unimaginable scale--clearly unacceptable). 2) Foster technological advancement such that it improves the productivity of society at a greater rate than that of population growth.

Option 2 is clearly the only acceptable course of action (again, this is all assuming that socialism is the goal--this is definitely not a universal belief). This then leads us to the question of how to best increase the rate of technological advancement. Your own example cites leisure time and accumulated wealth/resources as driving incredible advances in human knowledge and therefore technology. Following this logic, then, the fastest way to achieve the preconditions for desirable socialism is to accumulate society's resources in a massively disproportionate amount in order to allow a relative few to drive technological advancement. In other words, the fastest way to achieve desirable socialism is to first organize society around technological advancement (roughly speaking, resources being allocated disproportionately towards productive individuals and institutions), and then transition to socialism once the requisite level of productivity has been achieved.

At first glance this seems like at least a theoretically tractable--if epic--social undertaking. Another confounding effect, however, is that the goalpost of "high standard of living" is constantly tracking technological advancement. It used to be food on the table, then it was food on the table + a radio, then food + radio + car, then food + car + TV, then food + car + globally networked general computing device, then food + car + globally networked general computing device that fits in your pocket, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. This calls into question whether it will ever actually be possible to achieve the precondition to desirable socialism.

What, then, happens if we abandon the notion of desirable socialism--after all, a universal low standard of living would be a massive improvement from abject poverty for a significant number of people today. This would have to be done against the will of most (if not all) of the productive people who currently enjoy a higher standard of living today, while still requiring them to produce for the benefit of all--effectively, to use a more melodramatic phrase often trotted out by libertarians, at gunpoint. This version of socialism abandons all pretenses of occupying the moral high ground, itself being both naked class warfare and justification for such by the current upper classes.

Considering the above, socialism is neither a clearly and unarguably desirable (or even realistically obtainable) objective, nor is it an unambiguously moral imperative, resisted only by evil plutocrats and capitalists.

As an aside, please note that socializing functions of society is not the same as socialism as an overarching model of economic governance, though the latter is often used as a straw man to attack the former.

Comment Re:Genetically modified how? (Score 1) 559

No problem. I was just going through the thread later to find opportunities to spread some good anti-disinformation :) (full disclaimer: I work in ag biotech R&D).

Regarding labeling for potential allergens, you would think so, but this is not the case. It is essentially left up to the producer and downstream processors to decide when the risk requires extra precautions.

Essentially, the point I was trying to make is that what many people think are safe and time-tested techniques actually have the potential to be quite dangerous, or are already incredibly dangerous. The debates in response to basically every /. article on biotech display a massive cognitive disconnect and double standard with respect to GM technology. Many foods that are produced without regulation are effectively deadly poison to a not-insignificant number of people due to allergies, regardless of method of production or cultivar development. Heck, ~10% of Japanese people are allergic to rice--some to the point that exposure will result in severe anaphylactic shock. Most estimates are that ~150-200 people die each year in the US due to food allergies. Body count due to GMO foods? 0 after nearly 20 years on the market. If you count the unnecessary starvation deaths due to activists convincing African nations to reject GMO food aid, anti-GMO activism has killed more people than actually eating GMO foods (which again, has yet to kill a single person).

There are definitely legitimate concerns regarding genetic engineering as a field. It should be regulated and products resulting from it tested (it is and they are, extensively, though whether it is sufficient is always up for debate). The public should be better informed and therefore be an active participant in the larger debate around food security. The problem is that anti-GMO groups are exactly that--against GMO technology. Not for the safe regulation and management of GMO technology. Not for improving public education and awareness. Not for improving food safety, security, and sustainability in general.

Comment Re:Genetically modified how? (Score 1) 559

I can stick a branch from an lime tree on a lemon tree trunk and get both limes and lemons from the "same plant", but that doesn't yield any kind of a cross, like lemony limes.

Graft a tomato plant onto tobacco root stock and you'll get nicotine-laced tomatoes. In fact, grafting to infuse produce with anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and even anti-viral compounds is an active area of plant research and commercial production (this article is a nice summary). As noted in the linked article, grafting to the wrong rootstock has yielded poisonous produce.

Now, should we subject grafting to the same regulations as GMOs? What about requiring labeling for produce yielded by grafted plants?

Comment Re:Reasonable (Score 1) 559

That conventionally-bred gene manipulation you mention, while resulting in similarly granular effects to that of the GE, has the benefit of using mechanisms and pathways which have stood the test of those 2 billion years without resulting in catastrophic species loss or damage - *that's* why it gets a free pass .... in my book, anyway.

What about chemical or radiation-induced mutagenesis? I work in the ag biotech industry and I can tell you with 100% certainty that at least some of the cultivars marketed as clearfield wheat were developed using at least the former technique*. Both techniques have been used to create new cultivars in practically all major crops (both food crops and ornamental crops) that can be sold as Organic. That being said, while you have made an appeal to authority as a scientist, the basis of the argument you've made above is completely non-scientific. That is not to say that your objection is illegitimate, but establishing that it is non-scientific is important (I'll explain why later).

Also, the "mechanisms and pathways which have stood the test of those 2 billion years" result in "catastrophic species loss or damage" all the time . Not all dinosaurs became birds--most just became fossils. Disruptive innovation (to use a less grim and more /.-friendly term) is the norm in the biological sphere, so you might need to revoke your free pass :).

There is no way we can possibly safely understand the full implications of inserting a fish gene into a tomato to improve shelf-life.

As a physicist, you should also know that there is no way we can possibly understand the full implications of moving my coffee mug to the other side of my desk because the n-body problem is unsolvable. We can only approximate the likely effect. Not trying to be glib, just pointing out that not being able to possibly understand the full implications of something is the definition of FUD, not a strong argument against a given action. To be useful in the real world, we have to start talking about probabilities, and how we can gain a working (if not absolute) understanding of the likely consequences of a given action or class of actions.

I hesitate to invoke Hawking style religiosity but I will: Genetic Engineering is "playing God" (no, I'm anything but Christian) when IMHO there is no way we are anywhere near competent yet to exercise such ability. We need to exercise more humility instead. This beautiful planet is the only one we have, or are likely to have for some considerable time to come, and it should be treated with kid gloves.

Funny you should say this, because this is the exact line of reasoning some of my Biologist colleagues use to argue objections to physics experiments being run at the LHC, Fermilab, etc. I try to tell them that while particle accelerators can theoretically produce "micro black holes", it is only true in the literal sense that they can compress mass into a volume smaller than the Schwarzchild radius for that mass. They do not understand that the probability that such a black hole would subsequently swallow the earth is like the probability that two mobsters separated by 100 meters, each emptying 100 drums of ammo at eachother via tommy guns, walk away completely unscathed because every single bullet from mobster A collided in mid-air with a bullet from mobster B. Some effectively think that by using the LHC we're likely to end up creating 'red matter' from the Star Trek reboot. Suffice it to say that quantum physics is a sufficiently advanced field such that otherwise brilliant biologists will not necessarily have even a basic working understanding of the field.

Getting back to biology, the same argument above is just as applicable to modern medicinal technologies, such as the use of synthetic antibiotics, as it is to GMOs. Every time we apply an antibiotic treatment, for example, we roll the dice on the creation of a resistant strain of whatever it is that we're hoping to kill. This has, in fact, already happened many times over, and is becoming a huge problem (e.g., google MRSA, but I suggest that you not do so during or immediately prior to a meal). Using the logic from the first quoted passage, we should stop all medical treatment because the consequences of no treatment are finite and known (or at least backed by a perponderance of empirical data), while the consequences of treatment are unknown, or known to a much, much lower degree of confidence.

The fundamental issue, I think, is that any sufficiently advanced science not only becomes indistinguishable from magic--it becomes scary. For greater values of 'advanced' this becomes true even for scientists in other disciplines. This effect is compounded by the fact that the greater our advancement in each individual scientific discipline, the more difficult it is for any one individual to have an accurate understanding of the current state of multiple scientific disciplines. Physicists were probably the first to experience the full political ramifications of this because, given sufficiently intelligent people, incredible, mind-blowing advancements could be made with relatively primitive technology (Einstein + chalk yields e = mc^2, Schroedinger + cat = quantum physics, etc.). Biology as a field is only now starting to make similar advancements--in large part because, being far more reliant on empirical observation, biology is far more dependent on technological advancement (essentially, our ability to poke, prod, and measure things in increasingly precise and accurate ways determines our ability to advance the biological sciences). The fields of genomics and bioinformatics, for example, would be essentially dead in the water without the massive computing and data storage resources made available by modern technology. Our advances in technology have only recently allowed biologists to make the kind of advances analogous to those physicists were making in the early 20th century.

Biology has, to continue the physics analogy, moved from understanding that matter is composed of atoms, and being able to push them around and rearrange them in rough fashion, to being able to split and fuse atoms in a controlled and deliberate manner (or in a deliberately uncontrolled manner just to see what happens). The field of biology as a science has now advanced beyond the point where the current state of the art is easily and accurately understood by scientists in unrelated disciplines and because of this, it is now scary. Given one result of analogous physics advancements--nuclear weapons--this reaction is definitely not unwarranted.

Despite the above, the reason so many of my colleagues paint GMO objectors as being "pichfork'n'torches" hysterical is that, for the most part, objectors are unwilling to hold an honest dialog. Einstein, for example, was up-front about the fact that his objection to Quantum Mechanics ("God doesn't play dice") was not scientific, and that the only way to mount a legitimate challenge as to the validity QM was to find a scientific basis from which to do so. In the current debate about GMOs, however, there is no evidence of that kind of intellectual integrity**. Anti-GMO groups are willing to say essentially anything, and claim that that they are making scientific arguments. One of the more common tactics is an appeal to authority, where an MD, chemist, agronomist, etc., who does not actually understand the science nevertheless tries (often successfully) to persuade people that scientists or 'scientish' people objecting to GMOs is equivalent to a scientific basis for objecting to GMOs. As I mentioned earlier, non-scientific objections are not automatically invalid, but it is critically important to distinguish them as such if you want an honest, constructive dialog. The problem with this is that a constructive dialog will almost certainly result in a regulatory framework that will control but nevertheless allow GMOs into the market while legitimizing agricultural genetic engineering in the eyes of the public, which is not acceptable under any circumstances to many anti-GMO groups for reasons totally unrelated to science and/or public health.

In my personal experience, there are basically 2 of main reasons groups push faux science to fight GMOs. The first is that they actually do not understand how to evaluate an argument for scientific validity. In my experience, this applies to majority of members of anti-GMO groups if not the leaders themselves. These people are not necessarily unintelligent, they are just not sufficiently versed in science as a discipline to spot misinformation, so they repeat it. Any /. threat on biotechnology yields overwhelming volumes of evidence of this effect in action. The second is that even if they understand the difference, they nevertheless feel it is important enough to fight GMOs for a personal/religious/philosophical/social reason that if lying to the public is the most effective way to do it, they'll lie through their teeth. These are not necessarily immoral people--after speaking at length with some people whom I'd place in this category, I feel they genuinely believe that they are doing the right thing. For example, some activists will use GMOs as a boogie man because they feel it is the most effective way to garner public opposition to biological Intellectual Property laws that they feel pose a legitimate threat to food security. Try "I would like to argue that biological intellectual property laws enforced by WIPO and WTO are a major threat to the economic independence of developing nations" vs. "Ermahgerd, Frankenfoodz!" at a rally.

In the first case above, most biologists I know feel that it is simply not worth the effort to persuade someone when, even if they are successful, they have only gotten the individuals in question to transfer blind faith from one figure to another, not imparted any real understanding. The more cynical/mean-spirited ones feel the ignorance serves as a form of stupidity tax/social darwinism. This is not an abstract and humorous assertion, by the way. It was a dead-serious argument by some when, for example, thousands of people ended up starving in Zamibia because European activists persuaded various governments that GM food aid from the US was effectively poison, and got their local governments to threaten to close access to Euro markets if the GM food aid was accepted. The result was that many people ended up boiling and attempting to eat actually poisonous roots and plants for lack of any other form of sustenance. In the second case there is either a grudging acceptance that science is essentially besides the point, or outright hostility due to the dishonesty. In either case, very few people who actually understand the science see any reason or productive outcome in trying to wade into the debate--hence the perception, which is thus often warranted, that the scientists working on genetic engineering technology dismiss objectors as hysterical idiots.

Apologies for the rant, but you asked for it :).

* The most widespread form of which is inducing haploidy via crossing to a cultivar prone to producing haploid embryos containing only one parent's nuclear genetic material, then inducing chromosome doubling in the resulting plant via mitotic arrest agents to quickly produce new homogenous cultivars (i.e., doubled haploids).

** To be fair, there were few (if any) immediate economic and social ramifications either way in Einstein's case, whereas there is a massive economic incentive to many parties in the GMO debate, which provides both incentives for and grounds for suspicion of ulterior motives.

Comment Re:I don't think so (Score 1) 923

It proves that we will break international extradition and asylum treaties on a political whim...

Both assertions are incorrect. No international extradition treaty would be broken by extraditing Assange to Sweden (in fact, they would probably be broken if Britain did not extradite at this point given that all options for legal challenge have been exhausted), and no "asylum treaties" would be broken by seizing Assange either.

Recognition of status as an asylum-seeker is done on a country-by-country basis. Ecuador's granting Assange asylum neither requires nor implies any special recognition of status by the UK. Granting of asylum by a given country is no more and no less than a statement that the country in question will use its sovereign status and resources to protect the individual in question. All the UK have done with their letter is point out that Ecuador cannot in fact protect Assange, even by granting him asylum as neither its sovereign status nor resources available can prevent the UK from detaining him in a legal manner.

Also, on a related note, revoking the embassy's diplomatic status in order to seize Assange also does not violate any treaty. The treaty in question does not state that the host nation shall not revoke diplomatic status--only that if that action is taken, none of the recognized and declared diplomatic staff will be harmed or detained, and must be allowed to leave the country. In addition, the common misconception among many people discussing this issue seems to be that Ecuador can unilaterally grant Assange status as a diplomat, with all the immunities that implies--this is wrong. Recognition of diplomatic status is granted by the host country. Ecuador could apply for Assange to be recognized as a diplomat, but the UK would undoubtedly refuse because it would be a blatant attempt to abuse diplomatic privilege.

With respect to your other point regarding Sweden's refusal to guarantee no further extradition to the US, this is a non-issue. No sovereign state would make such a guarantee regardless of its ultimate intent. If you have been served with a subpoena to appear in person (Assange is essentially subject to an international version of this), there is no expecation that you can impose conditions upon your compliance with that subpoena in any of the countries involved, and any requested conditions are simply going to be ignored out of principle.

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