July 19, 2018

Tech We’re Using: When a Tech Reporter Doesn’t Use Much Tech

EBay gets a lot less attention than it used to, but it is still a good source of books unavailable elsewhere. There is a competitor to Abe called Biblio, which lists some of the same books and is still independent. Biblio’s best feature is an annual membership for $20, whose sole function is to provide a 10 percent discount. It pays for itself pretty quick.

Are there other book sites you like?

The Book Depository is a British bookseller that is in some ways the anti-Amazon. It has a clunky website that feels trapped in 2003. But the store has one great redeeming feature: It does not charge for postage, which is considerable across the ocean. A copy of Le Guin’s latest nonfiction collection — not published in America — would cost me $30 from Amazon.co.uk. From the Book Depository, it is $17.

They either have a sweet deal with the United States Postal Service, which delivers their packages, or they take a bath on every order. Did I mention that the Book Depository is owned by Amazon?

You and your wife raised your 8-year-old daughter in a largely tech-free household. How?

For the first couple of years, our girl never saw any tech at home more complicated than a blender. She did not see her first video until she was 4, on a holiday weekend when she was sick. Instead there were a lot of books around, and they got heavy use.

She turned out to be a great reader, confirming the old notion that kids become either just like their parents or like their nightmare opposite, which in my case would have meant a “declutterer” like Marie Kondo. She devoured the “Oz” books, even the ones by Ruth Plumly Thompson. We read aloud E. Nesbit’s hilarious “Treasure Seekers” series about a late-Victorian family of dim bulbs, and she brought in “Moby-Dick” for show and tell. For a while we were pretty smug parents.

What went wrong?

She picked up on the playground all sorts of information about Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, and now demands 10 minutes of YouTube songs a night that often mysteriously expands to half an hour.

Technology is creeping in on many fronts. On trips she listens to audiobooks that we get through Overdrive. She tunes her violin with an app and practices Hebrew via Duolingo. I am bracing myself for the teenage years. Her favorite phrase is “How dare you.” She’s a natural for Twitter.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/technology/personaltech/tech-reporter-does-not-use-tech.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Cliff Richard, British Pop Star, Wins Privacy Suit Against BBC

Prosecutors said in 2016 that there was not enough evidence to justify criminal charges against Mr. Richard, one of Britain’s best-known entertainers, with a career spanning some 60 years.

Judge Mann said the BBC had infringed Mr. Richard’s privacy rights “without a legal justification.”

“It did so in a serious and also in a somewhat sensationalist way,” the judge said, adding that he had rejected the BBC’s argument that its reporting was justified “under its rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

The judge said Mr. Richard’s life had been “hugely affected for almost two years by loss of public status and reputation, embarrassment, stress, upset and hurt, with some consequential health effects.”

Mr. Richard, whose name at birth in 1940 was Harry Webb, hugged supporters and wept when the judge delivered his ruling, according to reporters in the courtroom. Outside, some of Mr. Richard’s supporters sang “Congratulations,” one of his hit songs in Britain, where he was once promoted as the country’s equivalent to Elvis Presley.

One of the issues raised by the case was the question of whether reporters in Britain should be free to cite accusations against individuals before the police had filed charges.

Gideon Benaim, Mr. Richard’s lawyer, said the case had also raised “serious questions” over the BBC’s scrutiny of its journalists who, he said, had placed exclusive coverage ahead of his client’s right to privacy. He denied the BBC’s assertion that its reporters, who had apparently been tipped off by the police about the raid in 2014, were acting in the public interest.

The ruling drew sharp protests from the BBC and from other news outlets. Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news, called the outcome a “significant shift against press freedom.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/world/europe/cliff-richard-bbc.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Biggest Spender of Political Ads on Facebook? President Trump

Damon McCoy, who conducted the study with two fellow researchers, Laura Edelson and Shikhar Sakhuja, said they were not able to tally the total spending for Republicans and Democrats because their analysis was ongoing, though they planned to release those figures in the future.

As the midterms approach, political consultants have said that Democrats who are running for election are spending a smaller percentage of their ad budgets on digital ads than their rivals, sometimes as little as 10 percent versus more than 40 percent for Republicans. That has spurred volunteer efforts in Silicon Valley, which is widely regarded as liberal, to help bring Democratic campaigns into the digital age.

But the new study found a healthy amount of activity from what the researchers described as left-leaning politicians. Of the top 20 political candidates and PACs purchasing Facebook ads, 12 were identified as Democrats while eight were Republicans, according to data provided by the N.Y.U. researchers.

Facebook’s database worked well for identifying specific ads, Mr. McCoy said, but it did not give an overview of how a particular group or politician was advertising on Facebook. Some groups, he said, used multiple names to promote ads, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which also had ads placed as the A.C.L.U.

The researchers said they also found 43,575 cases of ads with political content that did not name a sponsor, indicating that whoever purchased the ad did not go through Facebook’s verification process. They added that men and women between the ages of 25 to 34 were the most targeted for ads, while those under 17 or above 65 were the least targeted.

Facebook said it welcomed the new study and hoped others would begin delving into its data.

“This report is the exactly how we hoped the tool would be used — outside experts helping to analyze these ads on Facebook,” said Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management. “It brings more transparency to the messages people see and increases accountability and responsibility over time, not just for us but advertisers as well.”

For Mr. Trump, the new study’s findings confirm previous reports of how active his operation has been on social media. Brad Parscale, the digital ad director for the Trump campaign, has said that his team took advantage of Facebook’s targeted ad campaigns to reach voters in 2016. The group tested highly targeted messages to reach voters across the United States, and then pushed those messages they saw were performing best.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/17/technology/political-ads-facebook-trump.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Marcia Chambers, 78, Who Exposed Discrimination in Golf, Dies

Early on, she spotted a book in her apartment about the Elizabethan stage by E. K. Chambers and adopted the surname legally.

Ms. Chambers was hired by The Associated Press in 1971. On one of her first days there, she covered the attempted assassination of the reputed Brooklyn Mafia boss Joseph A. Colombo Sr., who was gunned down at a rally in Columbus Circle in Manhattan. (He died in 1978.)

At The Times, which hired her in 1973, her beats included politics, education and federal and state courts. She was part of the reporting team on the Son of Sam serial-killer case, and she covered the trials of Bill and Emily Harris, who kidnapped the heiress Patricia Hearst in 1974, and John N. Mitchell and Maurice Stans, two former members of President Richard M. Nixon’s cabinet, on criminal conspiracy charges.

She worked out of the Times’s Los Angeles bureau for two years before leaving in 1987 to write a column for The National Law Journal. She went on to pursue a master’s degree in the study of law at Yale Law School, where she met her husband, Stanton Wheeler, who taught there.

She returned to writing for The Times in the 1990s as a freelance journalist, contributing articles about golf and issues in sports law.

Ms. Chambers is survived by her sister, Janice Kabel, a retired lawyer; two stepsons, Warren and Steven Wheeler; and five step-grandchildren. Her husband died in 2007.

Over the last 12 years, Ms. Chambers worked for The Branford Eagle, a digital-only news outlet in Connecticut, as the editor and a reporter. She wrote about politics, zoning board meetings and flower shows in Branford, a shoreline town just east of New Haven. She also lived there.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/17/obituaries/marcia-chambers-78-who-exposed-discrimination-in-golf-dies.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

A Starring Role for Hollywood’s Sexual Zelig

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “It’s hard to know where to begin,” said Matt Tyrnauer, a Vanity Fair special correspondent turned documentary filmmaker, as he dryly started to describe his new movie, which looks at closeted luminaries during Hollywood’s Golden Age. “There’s a story about Cole Porter and multiple carloads of guys, but it’s probably not printable.”

Oh, dear.

Best, then, to start in 2012. In an X-rated, best-selling memoir published that year, a former Marine named Scotty Bowers recounted how, between 1946 and the mid-1980s, he ran a type of prostitution ring for gay and bisexual people in the film industry, including A-listers like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Mr. Bowers also claimed to have personally shared a bed with J. Edgar Hoover and arranged wild sexual liaisons for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

It was hard to believe, to put it mildly. Mr. Bowers offered no proof, and everyone he named was conveniently dead. “Supposedly true,” wrote Janet Maslin, a New York Times book critic. Writing about the lurid, no-detail-too-excruciating memoir for The Washington Post, Charles Kaiser asked: “Can we believe all of this? Half?”

Mr. Tyrnauer — curious about the answers, as well as the notion of Mr. Bowers as a missing link in L.G.B.T.Q. history — decided to find out. He trailed Mr. Bowers for more than two years and found now-elderly men willing to talk on camera about working as gay prostitutes. He turned up supporting evidence (photos, explicit Super 8 footage from 1965) and filmed Liz Smith, the late gossip columnist, confirming the lesbianism of Ms. Hepburn, a longtime friend.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/movies/scotty-bowers-hollywood-sex.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Rules of the Baseball Press Box

I heard a few cheers, from the press box and the stands just below.

For a moment, I thought about bringing the ball home to my children, or giving it as a gag gift to my Times colleague Ben Shpigel, a big Verlander fan. But then I remembered another rule of the press box: Give the ball to a kid.

I’ve gotten other foul balls over the years — always scooping them up on a bounce — and the exercise of giving the ball to a fan is always fun.

In many ballparks, like Houston’s, the fans are so close to the press box that it’s not much of a drop. You can pretty much select which fan gets the ball and toss it right there.

Players, if they choose, can go through a similar exercise every day. Fans always want something from them — an autograph, a ball, a selfie or just a hello — so they always have the power to make someone’s night.

Fans usually don’t want anything from writers — we’re just part of the background scene. But giving away a foul ball made me feel good, since I remembered how desperately I wanted a ball every time I sat in the stands as a kid.

I looked out at the seats just below my perch where a few dozen fans were pleading for the ball. I spotted a girl in an orange Astros T-shirt who was maybe 10 years old, like my youngest daughter. I pointed in her direction — to make sure folks knew I had a specific target — and tossed it to her mom. Cool moment.

Then I went back to the laptop to do what we do these days — check the tweets. Kaplan had tweeted about my catch, as had Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle and the radio broadcasters for both teams. I tweeted about it, too, of course.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/insider/foul-ball-baseball-press-box-rules.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback

The wild book prices were in the remote corners of the Amazon bookstore that the retailer does not pay much attention to, said Guru Hariharan, chief executive of Boomerang Commerce, which develops artificial intelligence technology for retailers and brands.

Third-party sellers, he said, come in all shapes and sizes — from well-respected national brands that are trying to maintain some independence from Amazon to entrepreneurial individuals who use Amazon’s marketplace as an arbitrage opportunity. These sellers list products they have access to, adjusting price and inventory to drive profits.

Then there are the wild pricing specialists, who sell both new and secondhand copies.

“By making these books appear scarce, they are trying to justify the exorbitant price that they have set,” said Mr. Hariharan, who led a team responsible for 15,000 online sellers when he worked at Amazon a decade ago.

Amazon said in a statement that “we actively monitor and remove” offers that violate its policies and that examples shown it by The Times — including the hardcover version of the scholarly study “William T. Vollmann: A Critical Companion,” which was featured for $3,204, more than 32 times the going price — were “in error, and have since been removed.” It declined to detail what its policies were.

A decade ago, Elisabeth Petry wrote a tribute to her mother, the renowned novelist Ann Petry. “At Home Inside,” published by the University of Mississippi Press, is now out of print, but late last week secondhand copies were for sale on Amazon. A discarded library copy was $1,900. One seller offered two copies, each for $1,967, although only one was described as “Nice!” All these were a bargain compared with the copy that cost $2,464.

“I wish I had some of that money,” Ms. Petry said.

Buying books on Amazon can be confusing, because sometimes the exact same book can have more than one listing. For instance, a search for the Petry book turned up another listing. This time, there was just one copy for sale, which cost a mere $691. Whether a customer paid that price or three times that sum apparently depended on what listing he or she found.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/technology/amazon-used-paperback-book-pricing.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

‘Fake News’ Goes Global as Trump, in Britain, Rips the Press

Fox News, meanwhile, posted a video of the “CNN is fake news” exchange on its official Twitter account, which was retweeted by the network’s top-rated personality, Sean Hannity. Mr. Roberts, himself a former CNN reporter, issued a statement saying that “there are some fine journalists” at CNN, adding, “To issue a blanket condemnation of the network as ‘fake news’ is also unfair.”

Mr. Acosta’s name went unmentioned in the statement, prompting a CNN executive, Matt Dornic, to ding Mr. Roberts for a “glaring” omission. “Next time try and show some class,” Mr. Dornic wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump’s assertion that he does not take questions from CNN is false: a day earlier, he had answered a question from Jeremy Diamond, a CNN reporter, and he responds to CNN journalists during White House appearances. Even Mr. Acosta, on Friday, eventually got in a question. “Will you tell Putin to stay out of U.S. elections?” the correspondent asked in a booming voice as Mr. Trump was walking away from the lectern. The president paused, turned back, and called out: “Yes.”

Not all of the news conference was so fraught.

When the president called on Jeff Mason, a White House correspondent for Reuters, he complimented the reporter on his headwear.

“I like your hat,” Mr. Trump said.

“Thank you, sir,” Mr. Mason replied.

“You look good without it, too,” the president added, before praising Mr. Mason’s “good solid head of hair” as other reporters laughed. There were more smiles when Mr. Roberts reached over to lift the hat off his head — revealing Mr. Mason’s mostly bald pate.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/13/business/media/trump-cnn-london.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Yesterday in Styles: Would the Pickup Artist Stand a Chance in the #MeToo Era?

Yesterday in Styles” is a regular column that looks back at Styles stories that got people talking. This is one of them.

Original Headline: “He Aims! He Shoots! Yes!” from January 2004

From Chump to Champ: “When I look down at my pale, skinny body, I wonder why any woman would want to sleep next to it, let alone embrace it,” wrote Neil Strauss, a former New York Times music writer, in the opening of this 2004 feature. Despite what he believed to be his shortcomings, Mr. Strauss went on to chronicle his transformation from sexless nobody to singles-scene Adonis. How? Using techniques he learned in the shadowy online “seduction community” of the 2000s. Basically it was a secret society of would-be pickup artists, all hoping to tap the alpha male within.

Rules of the Game: In the early aughts — those bro-centric days of Maxim magazine and TV’s “The Man Show” — a legion of straight men who lacked the confidence to approach women gravitated to the online forums of self-styled pickup superstars who employed stage names like Mystery (pictured above and famous for his fur top hat and eyeliner) and Juggler. They preached a quasi-psychological juju that would, in theory, transform any ordinary dude from A.F.C. (Average Frustrated Chump) to P.U.A. (Pickup Artist). The tricks eventually became wearily familiar to many women on the singles circuit: “peacocking” (wearing crazy clothing, like a red cowboy hat — yes, truly — to stand out), “group theory” (charming the desired woman’s friends before making a move on her) and the “neg” (a subtle dig disguised as a compliment — “I love your eyelashes, are they real?” — to disarm women they believed had grown immune to flattery).

From “Neg” to “Pos”: These moves worked, apparently — at least for the guys who peddled them. Mystery had his own short-lived VH1 reality show, “The Pickup Artist.” Mr. Strauss rebranded himself as a Corvette-driving sex machine called Style and published “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” which sold millions of copies. Forget a lonely life scribbling magazine profiles of Courtney Love. Now he was dating Courtney Love’s guitarist.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/13/style/the-game-pickup-artists-post-metoo.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Two Senators Call for Investigation of Smart TV Industry

“If you think of the cheap 32-inch, 40-inch, 50-inch TVs — most of the TV manufacturers are lucky if they break even on those sets,” said Paul Gagnon, an analyst for IHS Markit. Profits typically come from larger sets.

Tracking software has also appeared as part of expensive models. David Kitchen, a software engineer in London who described his frustration with Samba TV’s tracking in last week’s Times article, said he had paid about 1,000 pounds (about $1,300) for a Sony Bravia set that asked him to enable the software.

At the end of last year, about 45 percent of TV households in the United States, or 56 million homes, had at least one smart TV, according to IHS Markit data. Smart TVs accounted for 70 percent of all television shipments to North America last year, said the firm, which forecasts the share to rise to 78 percent this year.

“In terms of practical things the F.T.C. could do, one is filing additional enforcement actions, which, in addition to curtailing individual companies’ practices, can send a powerful ‘clean up your act’ message to industries,” said Jonathan Mayer, an assistant professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University and a former technology adviser at the Federal Communications Commission.

The Federal Trade Commission could also do a “sweep” of the smart-TV industry, which would mean testing smart TVs from major manufacturers and potentially taking enforcement action based on its findings, he said.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, has been pressing the Federal Trade Commission on smart TVs and privacy since 2015 and said he was hopeful that the senators’ letter would prompt action.

“A device is a device,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “A person should be able to plug it into the wall, connect into the internet and not worry that what happens next is going to be recorded.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/business/media/senators-smart-tv-investigation.html?partner=rss&emc=rss