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Government

Fidel Castro Is Dead (nytimes.com) 279

Striek quotes the New York Times: Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba's maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90. His death was announced by Cuban state television.

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raul, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raul Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother's closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

Kebertson shares an AP article which remembers a book proclaiming "Castro's Last Hour" -- in 1982. And Miamicanes jokes there'll be celebrations among Castro-haters in Miami, sharing a CNN article which notes that in the end, Castro "lived long enough to see a historic thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States."
Canada

Canada Plans To Phase Out Coal-Powered Electricity By 2030 (theguardian.com) 147

Last week, French president Francois Hollande announced that France will shut down all its coal-fired power plants by 2023. This week, Canada's environment minister, Kathleen McKenna, announced that Canada plans to phase out its use of coal-fired electricity by 2030. The Guardian reports: [McKenna] said the goal is to make sure 90% of Canada's electricity comes from sustainable sources by that time -- up from 80% today. The announcement is one of a series of measures Justin Trudeau's Liberal government is rolling out as part of a broader climate change plan. Trudeau also has plans to implement a carbon tax. "Taking traditional coal power out of our energy mix and replacing it with cleaner technologies will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, improve the health of Canadians, and benefit generations for years to come," McKenna said. Four of Canada's 10 provinces still use coal-based electricity. Alberta had been working toward phasing out coal-fired electricity by 2030.

Comment Re:Hell No (Score 1) 1081

You are confusing voter fraud (voting multiple times or for other people) with election fraud (miscounting the votes or manipulating how inconvenient it is to vote) .

Realistically voter fraud is meaningless outside of the occasional small local off-year race where a few extra votes will matter.

What the EC does is make the votes of the vast majority of the country meaningless and hands it to a few voters in a few states. The EC is a relic that should have gone away decades ago.

Comment 1000x Yes (Score 2, Insightful) 1081

This is now the second time in 5 cycles where this has happened. National Popular Vote will actually make the two (or more) candidates campaign for every vote instead of trying to strategize about what counties in swing states will matter.

There are several other structural changes we ought to consider but eliminating the EC is an easy one and would be broadly popular.

Comment Quality and accountability (Score 5, Interesting) 587

There is simply a completely different type of employment culture in India than in the US. In the US we are used to interacting with a self-selecting group of immigrants who work really hard and often put up with a lot of stuff under H1 or other visa programs that American citizens wouldn't tolerate from employers.

Back in India though, there is a culture of treating employees like shit, and consequently a culture among employees of working as little as possible. Employers also don't screen candidates well for off-shore call centers and the like because if they are working on a large contract, all the accountability is based on metrics that can be manipulated and the US based business that contracted them probably only cares about reducing their costs.

My Indian and other immigrant coworkers work their asses off. The support teams I deal with in India can't even be bothered to show up to a phone call and are usually incapable of anything more than opening up a ticket with the software/hardware vendor directly.

Submission + - Google interview process big turn off for experienced engineers (businessinsider.com)

mysterious_mark writes: There's an article in the Business Insider discussing how the interview process at Google is really just geared for recent CS grads, and makes no sense for experienced engineers. Apparently the only criteria to work at Google is one's ability to do white board code problems, actual engineering experience counts for nothing. This may explain why the average engineer at Google is under 30, the problem is partly due to age discrimination, and also because older and more experienced engineers simply don't want to deal with the interview process.

Comment Re:Sounds reasonable (Score 4, Insightful) 204

If cops are personally liable for illegal searches and got prosecuted and jailed, then they would be thinking twice themselves. As it is, they can even jail you on bogus charges without any repercussions - "you may beat the rap but you won't beat the ride". Unfortunately, cops are not even prosecuted for straight-up murder very often, so thinking that prosecutors would bring charges for illegal searches is just fantasy right now.

Science

Soylent Halts Sale of Bars; Investigation Into Illnesses Continues (arstechnica.com) 207

Beth Mole, reporting for ArsTechnica:Following online reports of customers becoming ill after eating Soylent's new snack bars, the company announced this afternoon that it has decided to halt all sales and shipments of the bars as a precautionary measure . The company is urging customers to discard remaining bars and will begin e-mailing customers individually regarding refunds. In a blog announcing the decision, the company said it is still investigating the cause of bouts of illnesses of customers linked to the bars, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. "After hearing from our customers, we immediately began investigating the cause of the issue and whether it was linked to a problem with the Bars," the company said. "So far we have not yet identified one and this issue does not appear to affect our other drinks and powder. Though our investigation into this matter continues, we have decided to err on the side of caution and take this preventative step."

Comment Re:Tax avoidance vs. Tax evasion (Score 2) 579

Not really. In the US, if you had a private letter ruling like this where the IRS blessed your tax avoidance scheme and a court later disagreed, you still owe the taxes and internet. You would probably be spared the penalties since you followed IRS guidance in good faith. The law firm you hired to work with the IRS, might owe you some kind of refund or indemnity from their insurer.

Comment Re:False says Irish Finance Minister (Score 2) 579

I believe the way this happens is similar to what in the US is called a "Private Letter Ruling"

Basically a business or individual wants to know if a particular tax or other business strategy, basically a loophole, is legal. So they hire a specialty law firm and pay them to document the plan and then send it to the IRS or another regulator. What they get back is an opinion by that regulator that what they are doing is legal or not. Its not binding in court though but it might protect you from penalties or criminal charges for tax evasion if a court later disagrees with the private letter ruling since you followed the best legal advice and regulator interpretations in good faith.

So what seems to have happened here is Apple had this complex tax avoidance scheme and was able to convince Irish tax officials to sign off that their interpretation is that this is legal. However what was really happening is that Apple was telling all the other EU tax authorities that revenue was being earned in Ireland and would be taxed there. Then they were being allowed to tell Irish tax authorities that most of it was being earned and taxed elsewhere simultaneously.

Fundamentally this is a dishonest deal and the EU is right to require that a corporation when filing its taxes is not allowed to create two alternate stories to document its revenue and profits whereby a large portion of it, $100B+ of profits in this case is not being taxed anywhere.

Comment Re:What happened to personal choice? (Score 1) 104

A contract doesn't override the law. The government decides what contract terms are enforceable in court. Also most of the drivers started driving before the arbitration clause was added. You may have noticed about a year ago that virtually every company you do business with as a consumer sent out a notice with an arbitration clause because they found a wording that the Supreme Court agreed with even though the Federal Arbitration Act was never intended to cover consumer and employee disputes, but only business-to-business disputes. The expansion of FAA was basically a conservative project begun decades ago, long before some of the authors ended up on SCOTUS.

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