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A Better Way to Keep Kids From Joining ISIS: Talk to Them

The Intercept -

IN 2015, WHILE visiting Australia for a speaking engagement, Navaid Aziz was confronted by a young man who expressed his desire to join the Islamic State militant group. “He was saying he wanted to join the caliphate and similar sorts of rhetoric,” recalls Aziz, a youth counselor and Muslim religious scholar based in Canada. “It seemed like a lot of people had been brushing him off as a punk kid, but I set aside a few hours each day that I was there to listen to what he was saying and give my own feedback.”

A year later, the young man tracked Aziz down on Facebook. “I honestly didn’t know what had happened with him and thought that anything was possible,” Aziz says. In his message, the young man thanked Aziz for giving him guidance while he was in Australia. “He told me that if I hadn’t taken the time to speak with him then and challenge the things he was thinking, he might’ve ended up leaving home to join ISIS.”

This encounter between a young man and Aziz, a respected figure in his community who made time for him, potentially helped stop another young person from joining an extremist group. It also highlights the promise of self-directed, grassroots efforts against violent groups at a time when Western governments are spending millions on controversial, often invasive “countering violent extremism” programs.

Navaid Aziz.

Photo: AlMaghrib.com

In his 2014 address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama stressed the need for world leaders to defeat “extremist ideologies” in their own countries.

Since then, government coffers in the United States and elsewhere have opened up to fund counterextremism programs. The Obama administration has requested $69 million in funding for countering violent extremism (CVE) programs at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, according to a 2017 budget submission for one of the offices receiving the funds. And the White House has described CVE efforts as an “administration priority” for its overall 2017 budget.

The U.S. government has long been engaged in promoting CVE, from funding “moderate Islamic rap” to creating Twitter accounts and “fancy memes” to battle the influence of radicals online. This is in addition to the millions also being spent around the world by private organizations.

But despite the massive outlays of cash, the effectiveness of such programs is difficult to quantify. Many critics of CVE programs have blamed them for antagonizing the communities they are supposed to be doing outreach with, either by using counterextremism as a cover for surveillance, or by anointing “religious reformers” or “former extremists” as figureheads, despite the fact that such individuals are often widely loathed among Muslim communities.

“The issue is that many of these initiatives are spearheaded by individuals who have little experience or credibility with Muslim communities, and are thus unlikely to provide effective counternarratives for those at risk,” says Alexander Corbeil, a specialist on counterextremism at the security research firm SecDev. “I’m doubtful any mass campaign would have an impact on young people at risk of extremism. Such individuals need to be engaged with one on one to understand their grievances and reasoning. That’s the most effective way to prevent people from going down a path to radicalism, but the success of any such effort also requires the input and close involvement of people in Muslim communities.”

Aziz’s own grassrootes work offers a potential blueprint for effectively preventing homegrown extremism.

For him, steering young people away from radical groups is not a government directive but something that he sees as a civic, moral, and religious duty. A youth counselor to young people living in Calgary, Alberta, he runs a mentorship group with his wife for young people in their local community. “Our focus is on keeping kids safe from the dangers that exist out there, whether they be gangs, drugs, or other forms of violence,” Aziz says. “Protecting them from radicalism is a natural extension of that.”

As part of the mentorship program, which runs out of a local mosque where Aziz is an instructor, young people receive lessons on social justice and take part in community volunteer activities intended to provide a sense of purpose and responsibility. “We have study sessions where we focus on critical thinking and teaching young people the consequences of their actions. We also look at the lives of people in the past who confronted situations of injustice without resorting to violence, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and historical figures from Islam,” he says. “The purpose of all this is to show young people they are part of something greater than themselves. We do volunteer work in the broader community, particularly with senior citizens, and the kids start feeling like their lives are part of something big and meaningful.”

The Calgary community that Aziz serves has come under scrutiny after a number of its young men — seven are named in a U.S. Military Academy report — traveled abroad to join the Islamic State. Some later appeared in propaganda videos for the group. Others are now believed to be dead. In 2014, the city’s police chief raised concerns that support for extremism was growing among young people, in part due to the deteriorating political situation in the Middle East.

Aziz says that despite a few sensational cases, in his experience, support for radicalism exists only among a fringe minority. But for those who are at risk for radicalization, political events are a prime driver. “We shoot ourselves in the foot when we try and look for single root causes for social phenomena like this, but the elephant in the room is always foreign policy. Nobody wants to address it, though in my experience, its the No. 1 reason that young people get angry,” Aziz says. “Muslim communities have existed in Western countries for a very long time, but the issue of homegrown terrorism only arose over the past decade with the Iraq War and this period of extended conflict in the Middle East.”

“There is injustice going on in the world, and unless you do something to mitigate those problems, you’ll always end up treating symptoms but not the disease,” Aziz says.

Top photo: Muslims hold a protest against ISIS outside the White House in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6, 2015.

The post A Better Way to Keep Kids From Joining ISIS: Talk to Them appeared first on The Intercept.

Bitcoin Hard Forks May Become Safer With User Voting

Bitcoin Magazine -

Up to this point, the main way to judge support for a change to Bitcoin’s consensus rules has been miner voting. Miners are able to broadcast support for changes to the Bitcoin protocol via coinbase transactions, and these messages of support are tabulated in an effort to judge the level of support among those who are theoretically incentivized to support the network.

On a recent episode of The Crypto Show, Bitcoin Core contributor Peter Todd discussed the idea of allowing users to vote (or signal support) for hard forks, which is a concept that was heavily discussed at the Satoshi Roundtable in late February. During the interview, Todd summarized why having users vote for changes to Bitcoin’s consensus rules would be an improvement over miner voting:

“Something like coin voting ‒ that could give you much better feedback on what people actually want. Right now, we don’t really have a good way of getting feedback.”

This improved feedback would make hard forks safer because it would give a clearer indication of the level of support for the fork before it is activated. A hard fork without near universal support from users has the potential to create two competing Bitcoin blockchains. Although miner voting is currently available, those votes don’t indicate whether the economic majority will also go along with changes agreed upon by the mining community.

How Can Bitcoin Users Vote for Hard Forks?

Todd noted that this is especially useful during hard forks. Todd explained the basics of how this voting would work:

“As part of the hard fork to increase the block size, part of the conditions for actually triggering this hard fork (in the code to actually say this software is now active) would be that you go vote with your bitcoins.”

Todd also noted that Bitcoin transactions are really nothing more than cryptographically signed messages broadcast on the network. These messages essentially tell the rest of the network to transfer ownership of a certain amount of bitcoins from one address to another. Todd explained that other vote-related messages could also be sent out to the network:

“What we talk about when we say voting is to say, as part of that message, you could either say on top of that, ‘This transaction that gives those bitcoins to someone else ‒ I also happen to support this change.’ Treat that as a vote for the change, or you could go and vote entirely separately, which isn’t even in a transaction.”

How Would This Work in Practice?

Todd explained that the simplest implementation of user voting would likely be a flag in Bitcoin wallets that asks users whether they support a potential change to Bitcoin’s consensus rules. In this way, users would have the option to vote every time they use Bitcoin to send value over the Internet.

Exactly how the voting would work is still up for debate. Some believe that each user should be able to flag their transactions with a vote on every transaction, while others believe this would be something better handled by wallet developers. This part of the discussion gets into the debate over whether Bitcoin should operate as a democracy or a technocracy. Todd indicated that he leaned toward allowing users to handle their own votes, but he added, “It’s not a technical question; it’s a political question.”

Using Bitcoin Days Destroyed

Of course, some issues could arise by simply allowing users to vote on changes to Bitcoin’s consensus rules with their bitcoins. For example, one user could vote many times by simply exchanging the same small amount of bitcoins between his or her own addresses. Todd compared this type of voting to counting votes in an election based on how many times people were able to visit the polls on Election Day. He added, “You want something that’s more like one bitcoin equals one vote.”

To ensure that vote tallies are an accurate depiction of what the overall community believes, it would make sense to use Bitcoin Days Destroyed. This metric multiplies the value of a Bitcoin transaction by the number of days since those bitcoins were last moved. Todd noted:

“That means, essentially, everyone’s vote is counted equally in proportion to how many bitcoins they have and how long they’ve held them.”

Using Bitcoin Days Destroyed for votes would create a system somewhat similar to shareholder voting. Todd explained, “If you hold more bitcoins than I do, you get a bigger proportion of the vote, which makes a lot of sense. You’re more invested in the system.”

Problems With Coin Voting Still Exist

Coin voting is not without its own issues. The key problem with this system for gauging consensus is that it could be difficult to inform the public on how they’re supposed to cast their votes or even that a vote is taking place. Having said that, Todd added that the fact a hard fork would affect everyone on the network could make more people inclined to vote on potential changes to Bitcoin’s consensus rules.

Miner voting is the best option for gauging consensus on protocol changes right now, but coin voting may become an even more powerful indicator of fork support in the not-too-distant future.

Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured on VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, RT’s Keiser Report and many other media outlets. You can follow@kyletorpeyon Twitter.


The post Bitcoin Hard Forks May Become Safer With User Voting appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Rare Shakespeare's First Folio found in Scottish isle

Boing Boing -

A rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio turned up on a Scottish island, reports the BBC. Only 230 copies are known to exist, or thereabouts, and the last to be sold fetched £3.5m (about $5m) in 2003 and £2.8m in 2006. Countless fakes are knocking around, too. This copy of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623, was found at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute. Academics who authenticated the book called it a rare and significant find. ... Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, said her first reaction on being told the stately home was claiming to have an original First Folio was: "Like hell they have." But when she inspected the three-volume book she found it was authentic.

The folio represents the first legitimate compendium of Shakespeare's work; we wouldn't have much of Macbeth were it not for its publication, among many other works preserved in it.

A perfect storm of broken business and busted FLOSS backdoors everything, so who needs the NSA?

Boing Boing -


In 2014, Poul-Henning Kamp, a prolific and respected contributor to many core free/open projects gave the closing keynote at the Free and Open Source Developers' European Meeting (FOSDEM) in Belgium, and he did something incredibly clever: he presented a status report on a fictional NSA project (ORCHESTRA) whose mission was to make it cheaper to spy on the Internet without breaking any laws or getting any warrants. (more…)

Democracy Now! 2016-04-07 Thursday

Democracy Now! BitTorrents -

Headlines for April 07, 2016; A Torturer's Confession: Former Abu Ghraib Interrogator Speaks Out; Ex-Abu Ghraib Interrogator: Israelis Trained U.S. to Use "Palestinian Chair" Torture Device; Former Abu Ghraib Interrogator: Because of Trump & Cruz, Door Still "Wide Open" for U.S. to Torture; Melissa Harris-Perry on Race, Media, and the Story Behind This Year's Presidential Race

Democracy Now! 2016-04-07 Thursday

Democracy Now! Videos -

Democracy Now! 2016-04-07 Thursday
  • Headlines for April 07, 2016
  • A Torturer's Confession: Former Abu Ghraib Interrogator Speaks Out
  • Ex-Abu Ghraib Interrogator: Israelis Trained U.S. to Use "Palestinian Chair" Torture Device
  • Former Abu Ghraib Interrogator: Because of Trump & Cruz, Door Still "Wide Open" for U.S. to Torture
  • Melissa Harris-Perry on Race, Media, and the Story Behind This Year's Presidential Race

Download this show

How to Run Ubuntu on latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 14316

The Hacker News -

As reported last week, Microsoft will launch an 'Anniversary Update' for Windows 10 that will bring Ubuntu file system, allowing you to use Bash to run command-line Linux applications without a virtual machine. However, you do not have to wait until this summer to run Bash (Bourne Again Shell) on your Windows 10 OS, as Microsoft has released the first preview build of the Windows 10


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