Encryption: Are there any secrets on the Web?

The NSA has cracked common forms of encryption used not just by terrorists, but also by regular consumers and businesses.

Is anything online safe? asked Larry -Seltzer in ZDNet.com. Last week, a joint report from The Guardian, The New York Times, and ProPublica.org revealed that the National Security Agency had managed to crack many common forms of encryption used on the Internet not just by terrorists, but also by regular consumers and businesses.

The NSA’s efforts appear mostly geared “to get around the cryptography rather than to break it directly,” often using “black hat methods.” The truly upsetting revelation is that the NSA is allegedly working hand in hand with tech companies to gain backdoor access, allowing analysts “to sniff traffic to these sites unimpeded by encryption.”

Let’s not freak out, said Sean Lawson in Forbes.com. “The fact is that the NSA is not likely to want into your, or my, computer.” The real problem is that other people might. It now appears that some common tools—like the encryption many companies use to protect their private networks and the 4G/LTE encryption used by wireless carriers—might be vulnerable to NSA intrusion.
But such encryption can still “provide protection against the more likely threat, which is a malicious actor in the coffee shop sniffing traffic and stealing personal information from other users.” The key to personal Internet security is to stay vigilant. It makes no sense to abandon tools that enhance your privacy out of concern over “a ubiquitous adversary that is likely not targeting you, and that you likely could not stop anyway.”

And there are plenty of such tools at your disposal, said Bruce Schneier in The Guardian. As long as you’re using the latest software, the best encryption available, and a strong password, odds are your data will be safe, at least from the garden-variety hackers that do the most damage. But if you’re concerned, start using software like Tor, which anonymizes your network activity. Hackers and the NSA might target Tor users and others who encrypt their communications, “but it’s work for them.”

And by taking those precautions, “you’re much better protected than if you communicate in the clear.” For the absolute highest security, break the chain of transmission with an “air gap.” That is, buy a new computer that has never been connected to the Internet and transfer files only on physical media, such as USB sticks. And don’t trust commercial or proprietary security software, especially from larger vendors. “My guess is that most encryption products from large U.S. companies have NSA-friendly back doors.” Open-source products are much more difficult for hackers to secretly infiltrate or modify.

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The Largest List of text & Chat acronyms is available as a book!

Ever seen an acronym you didn’t know? Are you a parent or teacher with kids online? Are you a business professional trying to stay savvy? Or just someone who loves to get online…

In an age where everything from job searching to dating is interactive, knowing how to communicate in your online life is a must.  There are new technologies, new online services, and new lingo created every day. If you think it's tough to keep up with it all, you’re not alone.

Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of online jargon ;-) Not only has the Internet and texting changed the way we communicate, it has spawned an entirely new language that is growing every day.

That’s why there is NetLingo, to keep track of new terms and organize it in a way that is useful to you. Whether you're a professional who feels like you're on information overload, or a power user who wants more, or a parent who wants to keep up with your kids, NetLingo.com can help.

NetLingo published a second book “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms” and it contains all of acronyms and abbreviations you’ll see in text messages, email, IM, social networks, websites, dating sites, job sites, auction sites, discussion forums, gaming sites, chat rooms, blogs… oh, and in the real world too.

The updated 2014 version of “NetLingo: The List” (136 pages) defines the crazy array of letters, numbers and symbols that comprise our new conversations. Known as acronyms, abbreviations, SMS talk and leetspeak, these terms are used by millions of people in a variety of online settings. This edition contains French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Welch, Czech and Chinese text terms too!

See if you know any of these popular acronyms and text codes
POTATO
BRB
LOL
IRL
w00t!
POS
DRIB
GR8
ROTFL
WTF
OMW
WSUP
BOHICA
PDOMA
WOMBAT
pron
S2R
solomo
w’s^
ysdiw8
?^
143
182
303
404
459
53X
831
88
9
What are acronyms and why are they so popular?

With millions of people texting and instant messaging every day, it's no wonder you've seen this cryptic looking code. Acronyms are an integral part of computer culture and grew rapidly on the Internet. Now, along with an alphabet soup of abbreviations and symbolic messages, this online jargon has become a language of its own.

So what are acronyms? Shorthand? How do you begin to understand a new language?

Let’s start with the basics: An acronym is derived from the first letters of a phrase and is pronounced as a new word, for example POTATO stands for “People Over Thirty Acting Twenty One” and is pronounced "potato."

Shorthand refers to an abbreviation, or initialism, that is pronounced by saying the letters one-by-one, for example FYI is pronounced "F-Y-I" and BRB is pronounced "B-R-B".  There are, of course, exceptions. Some acronyms go both ways, such as FAQ, which can be pronounced "fak" or "F-A-Q".

It should also be noted that acronyms are generally typed IN ALL CAPS (not to be confused with SHOUTING) whereas shorthand is often typed in all lowercase.

Now let’s start to mix things up. Sometimes the shorthand isn't shorter than the original phrase, for example "dewd" means "dude" and "kewl" means "cool" and :::poof::: means "I'm gone".

Now let’s add some symbols and numbers! Leetspeak is the name for a type of symbolic jargon in which you replace regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words, for example:

·      backward and forward slashes create this shape "/\/\" to stand for the letter M;
·      numbers and symbols often replace the letters they resemble (for example the term "leetspeak" is written as "!337$p34k");
·      letters can be substituted for other letters that might sound alike (such as "ph" is transposed with "f" so "phear" is used instead of "fear"); and
·      common typing errors such as "teh" instead of "the" and “pwn” instead of “own” are left uncorrected.

The result is a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. In fact, the culture of online jargon encourages new forms of expression and users will often award each other's individual creativity.

So what makes texting and instant messaging so popular?

In short, it’s fast, cheap, and cool. itz hw 2 tlk w/o bng hrd ;-)

Texting lets you finalize last-minute plans, track down friends, send pictures, correspond while traveling, and pass on information with just a few clicks of the cell phone keypad. IM lets you have real-time conversations with friends or colleagues or several people at once on your computer screen. Texing and IM are popular because they are private: no one can hear you “talking.” Acronyms and smileys are popular because they’re short and they bring emotional expression into a written world. 

Face it, communication is changing. It’s becoming quicker and less formal, and while it’s impossible to capture every instance of every text message out there, this is the definitive list. Many people at some point will use or see a variation of a term in this book, often without the vowels so as to keep the text or IM short. Such as: omw, meet me n frnt pls -or- got ur vm, thx 4 info, ttyl

Think it’s tough to understand? It’s not, take this test:

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh?

Like most new things, communicating in abbreviations may seem strange at first but then fun after awhile. Get copies of “NetLingo: The List” for anyone you know who loves to get online! Not recommended for children under 14 due to serious adult humor, it will entertain you as you look up and translate the chat acronyms and text symbols you come across in your life online. The one place to learn all of the online terms you’ll ever need to know is NetLingo.com.

Erin Jansen is founder of NetLingo.com and author of “NetLingo: The Internet Dictionary” and “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms.” Sign up for the free Acronym of the Day!

The economics of Netflix: Making a $100 million show

Economics of Netflix
Source: GreatBusinessSchools.org

The Internet: Is the U.S. losing control of the Web?

According to some experts, Internet freedom is in danger. L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration announced plans to relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, an international consortium of business groups and government agencies that assigns and maintains Web addresses and domain names. But the move will invite “Russia, China, and other authoritarian governments” to “fill the power vacuum caused by America’s unilateral retreat.” Russia and China have already pushed to get rid of ICANN altogether, looking to replace it with a group that would outlaw anonymity on the Web and tax sites like Google and Facebook to “discourage global Internet companies from giving everyone equal access.”

“Hold on a minute,” said Katherine Maher in Politico.com. “No one actually ‘€˜controls’ the Internet.” ICANN’s job is to coordinate the names and numbering system used to “match human-readable domains” with their number-based Internet Protocol addresses. And while ICANN is technically based in California, the organization has offices all over the world and commercial and noncommercial members from 111 countries and international organizations. That’s why ceding U.S. control of ICANN is the right move, said Edward J. Black in HuffingtonPost.com. With each new revelation of online surveillance and censorship, it’s becoming clearer than ever that Internet freedom “faces unprecedented challenges.” By “strengthening a multi-stakeholder group like ICANN,” the Obama administration is trying to pre-empt a political standoff with other world powers over Internet access for the general public. After all, “we do not‘€”and should not‘€”try to retain or expand the role of any governments seeking to control” the Internet, including our own.

But try telling that to lawmakers, said Brian Fung in WashingtonPost.com. Politicians worry that a multi-stakeholder system “could enable foreign governments to impose regulations on the Internet.” They just don’t get that the United States’ oversight of ICANN has been mainly symbolic. In fact, it is precisely our government’s nominal position atop the addressing system that “gives Russia and China the grounds to call for a different” one. Ceding control doesn’t open the floodgates for Russia, or China, or even North Korea to “run roughshod over the Web.” Instead, it evens the playing field. And since ICANN is specifically set up to prevent “any one actor from dominating what happens,” any fears about a foreign takeover of the Web are pretty far-fetched. What’s more, ICANN so far has proved rather effective at “keeping Russia, China, and other authoritarian regimes in check.”

- As seen in The Week
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You’re under surveillance: Dragnet Nation

In ‘private’ online forums, at malls, and even at home, Julia Angwin reports, someone is tracking you.

Sharon and Bilal couldn’t be more different. Sharon Gill is a 42-year-old single mother who lives in a small town in southern Arkansas. She ekes out a living trolling for treasures at yard sales and selling them at a flea market. Bilal Ahmed, 36, is a single, Rutgers-educated man who lives in a penthouse in Sydney, Australia. He runs a chain of convenience stores.
Although they have never met in person, they became close friends on a password-protected online forum for patients struggling with mental health issues. Sharon was trying to wean herself from anti-depressant medications. Bilal had just lost his mother and was suffering from anxiety and depression.

From their far corners of the world, they were able to cheer each other up in their darkest hours. Sharon turned to Bilal because she felt she couldn’t confide in her closest relatives and neighbors. “I live in a small town,” Sharon told me. “I don’t want to be judged on this mental illness.”

But in 2010, Sharon and Bilal were horrified to discover they were being watched on their private social network.

It started with a break-in. On May 7, 2010, PatientsLikeMe noticed unusual activity on the “Mood” forum where Sharon and Bilal hung out. A new member of the site, using sophisticated software, was attempting to “scrape,” or copy, every single message off PatientsLikeMe’s private “Mood” and “Multiple Sclerosis” forums.

PatientsLikeMe managed to block and identify the intruder: It was the Nielsen Co., the media-research firm. Nielsen monitors online “buzz” for its clients, including drugmakers. On May 18, PatientsLikeMe sent a cease-and-desist letter to Nielsen and notified its members of the break-in.
But there was a twist. PatientsLikeMe used the opportunity to inform members of the fine print they may not have noticed when they signed up. The website was also selling data about its members to pharmaceutical and other companies.

The news was a double betrayal for Sharon and Bilal. Not only had an intruder been monitoring them, but so was the very place that they considered to be a safe space. 

Even worse, none of it was necessarily illegal. Nielsen was operating in a gray area of the law even as it violated the terms of service at PatientsLikeMe. And it was entirely legal for PatientsLikeMe to disclose to its members in its fine print that it would sweep up all their information and sell it.

We are living in a Dragnet Nation—a world of indiscriminate tracking where institutions are stockpiling data about individuals at an unprecedented pace. The rise of indiscriminate tracking is powered by the same forces that have brought us the technology we love so much—powerful computing on our desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Before computers were commonplace, it was expensive and difficult to track individuals. 

Governments kept records only of occasions, such as birth, marriage, property ownership, and death. Companies kept records when a customer bought something and filled out a warranty card or joined a loyalty club. But technology has made it cheap and easy for institutions of all kinds to keep records about almost every moment of our lives.

The combination of massive computing power, smaller and smaller devices, and cheap storage has enabled a huge increase in indiscriminate tracking of personal data. The trackers include many of the institutions that are supposed to be on our side, such as the government and the companies with which we do business.

Of course, the largest of the dragnets appear to be those operated by the U.S. government. In addition to its scooping up vast amounts of foreign communications, the National Security Agency is also scooping up Americans’ phone calling records and Internet traffic, according to documents revealed in 2013 by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Meanwhile, commercial dragnets are blossoming. AT&T and Verizon are selling information about the location of their cellphone customers, albeit without identifying them by name. Mall owners have started using technology to track shoppers based on the signals emitted by the cellphones in their pockets. Retailers such as Whole Foods have used digital signs that are actually facial recognition scanners. 
 
Online, hundreds of advertisers and data brokers are watching as you browse the Web. Looking up “blood sugar” could tag you as a possible diabetic by companies that profile people based on their medical condition and then provide drug companies and insurers access to that information. Searching for a bra could trigger an instant bidding war among lingerie advertisers at one of the many online auction houses.

In 2009, 15-year-old high school student Blake Robbins was confronted by an assistant principal who claimed she had evidence that he was engaging in “improper behavior in his home.” It turned out that his school had installed spying software on the laptops that it issued to the school’s 2,300 students. The school’s technicians had activated software on some of the laptops that could snap photos using the webcam. Blake’s webcam captured him holding pill-shaped objects. Blake and his family said they were Mike and Ike candies. The assistant principal believed they were drugs.

Blake’s family sued the district for violating their son’s privacy. The school said the software had been installed to allow technicians to locate the computers in case of theft. However, the school did not notify students of the software’s existence, nor did it set up guidelines for when the technical staff could operate the cameras.

An internal investigation revealed that the cameras had been activated on more than 40 laptops and captured more than 65,000 images. Some students were photographed thousands of times, including when they were partially undressed and sleeping. The school board later banned the school’s use of cameras to surveil students.

On April 5, 2011, John Gass picked up his mail in Needham, Mass., and was surprised to find a letter stating that his driver’s license had been revoked. “I was just blindsided,” John said.
John is a municipal worker—he repairs boilers for the town of Needham. Without a driver’s license, he could not do his job. He called the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and was instructed to appear at a hearing and bring documentation of his identity. They wouldn’t tell him why his license was revoked.

When John showed up for his hearing, he learned that the RMV had begun using facial recognition software to search for identity fraud. The software compared license photos to identify people who might have applied for multiple licenses under aliases. The software had flagged him and another man as having similar photos and had required them to prove their identities.
John was a victim of what I call the “police lineup”—dragnets that allow the police to treat everyone as a suspect. This overturns our traditional view that our legal system treats us as “innocent until proven guilty.”

The most obvious example of this is airport body scanners. The scanners conduct the most intrusive of searches—allowing the viewer to peer beneath a person’s clothes—without any suspicion that the person being scanned is a criminal. In fact, the burden is on the individual to “prove” his or her innocence, by passing through the scanner without displaying any suspicious items.
John Gass luckily was given a chance to plead his case. But it was an absurd case. He was presented with a photo of himself from 13 years ago.

“It doesn’t look like you,” the officer said.

“Of course it doesn’t,” John said. “It’s 13 years later. I was a hundred pounds lighter.”

John presented his passport and his birth certificate, and his license was reinstated. But the officers wouldn’t give him any paperwork to prove that it was reinstated. He wanted a piece of paper to show his boss that he was okay to drive again. 

John filed a lawsuit against the RMV, claiming that he had been denied his constitutionally protected right to due process. The RMV argued that he had been given a window of opportunity to dispute the revocation because the letter had been mailed on March 24 and the license wasn’t revoked until April 1. John didn’t pick up his mail until April 5. The Suffolk County Superior Court granted the RMV’s motion to dismiss. Gass appealed, but the appellate court also ruled against him.

John felt betrayed by the whole process. He now is very careful around state police because he worries that he won’t be treated fairly. “There are no checks and balances,” he said. “It is only natural humans are going to make mistakes. But there is absolutely no oversight.

These stories illustrate a simple truth: Information is power. Anyone who holds a vast amount of information about us has power over us.

At first, the information age promised to empower individuals with access to previously hidden information. We could comparison shop across the world for the best price, for the best bit of knowledge, for people who shared our views.

But now the balance of power is shifting, and large institutions—both governments and corporations—are gaining the upper hand in the information wars, by tracking vast quantities of information about mundane aspects of our lives.

Now we are learning that people who hold our data can subject us to embarrassment, or drain our pocketbooks, or accuse us of criminal behavior. This knowledge could, in turn, create a culture of fear.

Consider Sharon and Bilal. Once they learned they were being monitored on PatientsLikeMe, Sharon and Bilal retreated from the Internet. Bilal deleted his posts from the forum. He took down the drug dosage history that he had uploaded onto the site. Sharon stopped using the Internet altogether and doesn’t allow her son to use it without supervision.

They started talking by phone but missed the online connections they had forged on PatientsLikeMe. “I haven’t found a replacement,” Sharon said. Bilal agreed: “The people on PLM really know how it feels.”

But neither of them could tolerate the fear of surveillance. Sharon said she just couldn’t live with the uncertainty of “not knowing if every keystroke I’m making is going to some other company,” she said. Bilal added, “I just feel that the trust was broken.”

Sharon and Bilal’s experience is a reminder that for all its technological pyrotechnics, the glory of the digital age has always been profoundly human. Technology allows us to find people who share our inner thoughts, to realize we’re not alone. But technology also allows others to spy on us, causing us to pull back from digital intimacy.
When people ask me why I care about privacy, I always return to the simple thought that I want there to be safe, private spaces in the world for Sharon and Bilal, for myself, for my children, for everybody. I want there to be room in the digital world for letters sealed with hot wax. Must we always be writing postcards that can—and will—be read by anyone along the way?

As seen in The Week, excerpted from Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin. Published in February 2014 by Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. ©2014 by Julia Angwin. All rights reserved.


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How to create a culture around your brand

Corporate Culture
Source: Masters-in-Marketing.org

The future of artificial limbs

The past decade has seen huge leaps in prosthetics. How far will the technology take us? Writers at The Week investigate, what’s driven the advances?

A combination of modern technology and the horrors of war. Since ancient times, combat injuries have forced doctors and inventors to create replacements for missing body parts, ranging from metal hooks to wooden legs.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, improvements in body armor, triage, and surgical techniques meant that wounded soldiers were three times more likely to survive than casualties in Vietnam. As a result, about 1,800 vets came home with one or more missing limbs, prompting the government to begin investing heavily in improving those soldiers’ lives.

The U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has spent $144 million since 2006 on prosthetics research and development, a project labeled “the Manhattan Project of prosthetics.” “Our goal has not been just get out of bed and walk,” said Paul Pasquina, chief of orthopedics at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, “but to get out of bed and thrive.”

What can the new prosthetics do?
They are getting closer and closer to approximating the function of human limbs. “Myoelectric” hands have movable fingers that grip and gesture naturally, and move in two dozen ways in response to tiny muscular movements in the residual limb. Prosthetic legs—once clumsy, heavy, and wooden—are now light and agile and come with gyroscopic knees that flex and extend, allowing users to climb stairs and ride a bike. These state-of-the-art legs take in data on how the wearers walk and build algorithms to anticipate their intentions, so as to move more smoothly. Advances in materials have made limbs lighter and easier to use, and they can be covered in flesh-colored silicone “skin” that looks so natural it even comes with freckles.

How does that affect users?
Amputees are now able to live much fuller and more active lives than ever before. Prior to his sensational murder trial, South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, whose legs were amputated below the knee when he was a baby, was beating able-bodied runners and competing with Olympic athletes. Some competitors even complained that his carbon-fiber prosthetic “blades” gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. In recent years, more than 300 military amputees have returned to active duty, including 53 who went back to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The technology is there to get you back where you used to be,” says Army Staff Sgt. Billy Costello, who lost his right leg to an IED in 2011. “You just have to make calls to see who’s done what already.”’

What’s the next challenge?

To develop devices that will allow these mechanical appendages to be directly controlled by the user’s thoughts. That frontier is already being explored. In 2011, Cathy Hutchinson, a 58-year-old stroke victim and quadriplegic, commanded a robotic arm to pick up a container of coffee and bring it to her lips just by thinking about it. It was the first time in 15 years that she was able to drink without assistance. “The smile on her face was something I will never forget,” said Leigh Hochberg, a member of the research team. The technology, which uses a microelectrode implanted in the motor cortex to interpret brain activity, requires subjects to be hardwired to external computers. But devices currently in development may soon allow for the entire process to happen inside a person’s body.

How will that work?

Prosthetics are being engineered to respond to nerve signals. This new technique, called targeted muscle reinnervation surgery, utilizes functioning muscles like the thigh or pectorals, and sends signals from the brain to the bionic limb, a process known as brain-machine interface, or BMI. A DARPA-funded program has spent $71.2 million since 2009 on BMI-related projects, with the goal of transforming prosthetic limbs into an extension of a patient’s own flesh. The redirected nerves not only enable movement by thought—they enable amputees to “feel” objects through their prosthetics. “I could feel round things and soft things and hard things,” says Dennis Sørensen, a 36-year-old from Denmark who recently tested a prototype of an artificial hand. “It’s so amazing.’’

What does the future hold?
Truly bionic human beings—part flesh, part machine. Experts say that 50 percent of the human body is currently replaceable with artificial implants and advanced prosthetics. Mechanical organs, including the heart, lungs, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys, either currently exist or are in advanced stages of development. Many electronic implants, like pacemakers and hearing aids, already control, restore, or enhance normal body functions. In coming decades, said Andy Miah, director of the Creative Futures Institute, prosthetics will be able to do far more than just replace body parts lost to injury, disease, or age—they will extend the boundaries of what humans can do. “These technologies don’t just repair us, they make us better than well,” Miah said. “The human enhancement market will reveal the truth about our biological conditions—we are all disabled.”

The real Iron Man
Films such as Star Wars, RoboCop, and The Matrix depict a world where people and their machines are completely merged. Futurists and researchers in prosthetic technology say that nearly everything depicted in these films is possible; indeed, current advances in robotics, neuroscience, and microelectronics are bringing the visions of science fiction closer to reality every year. Over the next two decades, scientists expect to introduce bionic appendages that respond to thoughts, and chips implanted in the brain with the potential to download data directly into human memory banks. This summer, the military plans to test the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), which will encase soldiers in a powered exoskeleton with bulletproof body armor, a built-in weapon, and computer-generated “situational awareness displays.” It won’t fly like Iron Man, but William McRaven, chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command, said the suit “will yield a revolutionary improvement in survivability and capability” for warriors and “a huge comparative advantage over our enemies.”

As seen in The Week ;-)
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It's time for women to start asking for raises

Turns out the old adage is true: If you don’t ask, you don’t get, said Jennifer Ludden in NPR.org. New research by economists at Carnegie Mellon University found that “in the face of a persistent gender pay gap,” one reason men still outearn women is because “women simply don’t ask for more money.”

According to economics professor Linda Babcock, men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise. That “failure to negotiate higher pay is crucial,” says Babcock, because it can have a “snowball effect” resulting in smaller raises and bonuses over the course of a woman’s career. And that doesn’t even account for “company retirement contributions, which are also based on a share of salary.”

The problem can also “carry over to a new employer, who is almost certain to ask, ‘What was your last salary?’” Part of the reason women don’t negotiate is that they “often just don’t think about asking for more pay,” and “if they do, they find the very notion of haggling intimidating.”

With good reason, said Tara Siegel Bernard in The New York Times. Experts say that when women “advocate for themselves” and “act in ways that aren’t considered sufficiently feminine,” bosses may “find it unseemly, if only on a subconscious level.”

Negotiation gurus say women should “take a more calibrated approach” when asking for a raise or a new job title. And while “some women may bridle” at the notion of conforming to stereotypes, “we might as well use them to move forward.”

In that case, “consider these tactics,” said Aine Creedon in NonprofitQuarterly.org. If you’re angling for a raise, be prepared. “Females tend to not ask for raises when there isn’t a clear standard on how much to ask for,” so do your research.

Recruiters can give you an idea of what you’re worth, and networking with male colleagues and other employees in your workplace or at peer organizations “can be very informative.” And “bringing up outside offers” can help make your bosses realize your value. Sadly, this tactic may still be “seen as aggressive for females” and can backfire. “Approaching the matter in a passive tone” might be more effective. In fact, “the way you choose to present yourself and the language you use can make or break your chances.”

Negotiate in person, not by email, which can “come off as impersonal and cold.” It also helps to time your request to a performance review or recent accomplishment, and focus on using words like “we” and “us” that show “how this move will benefit the whole organization.”

AS seen in The Week ;-)
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Did you hear about Teju Cole's essay on Twitter?

Teju Cole might be the opposite of a book snob, said Aaron Calvin in BuzzFeed.com. Earlier this year, the award-winning Nigerian-American novelist turned heads by publishing a 4,000-word, deeply reported essay on immigration via Twitter, breaking the text into 250 tweets.

Except for the format, “A Piece of the Wall” reads like an article that the 38-year-old Brooklyn-based scholar might have written for The New Yorker or The New York Times. But he wanted to be sure it could be read by people who lack either access to or a deep interest in magazines or books. “In various parts of West Africa, there are different iterations of the idea that ‘White people like paper so much that they even wipe their butts with it,’” he says. “I love print. But maybe not everything has to be on it.”

No one should suffer an excess of guilt for failing to read Cole’s newly published novella, Every Day Is for the Thief, said The New York Times. As voracious a reader as he’s been since childhood, Cole claims not to worry about any of the revered books that he’s so far failed to crack. “I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider ‘essential,’ nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter,” he says. “But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many play-lists to assemble, and many favorite books to reread.

Life’s too short for anxious scorekeeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know.”

As seen in The Week ;-)
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The psychology of video game addiction

What turns a hobby into a sickness? Jack Flanagan at The Kernel investigates. "I would not inflict this game upon anyone" was the testimony of a gamer codenamed Leo as he looked into the camera, his left cheek illuminated, offscreen, by a computer monitor. He was speaking about World of Warcraft, the notorious poster boy of the gaming industry, and, later in the documentary, he'd reveal why: 12 hours a day at a computer screen, sometimes more.

No money, no education, no life. Leo gave everything to World of Warcraft and, unsurprisingly, it gave nothing back. But Leo's story is not unusual. Scan internet forums like Reddit or Olganon (On-line Gamers Anonymous) are replete with horror stories of lives lost — in some cases, literally. In 2005, a South Korean man died after a reported 50-hour video gaming session, and in 2012 a Taiwanese man was discovered dead in his gaming chair, arms outstretched for his computer even in the middle of a fatal cardiac arrest. No, you wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Video game addiction exists. It has all the features you need to classify an addiction: losing jobs and loved ones; withdrawal symptoms like cold sweats and anger; developing migraines and back problems and, very occasionally, death. And it's occurring around the globe, but especially in America, the UK, and parts of Asia (China, Korea, and Japan).

How many people are affected, no one knows, but two statistics stand out: Globally, this is a $66 billion dollar industry, and in 2007 a study found almost 12 percent of participants in a 7,000 person study were diagnosed as addicted to video games. If that trend even partially reflects numbers in the greater population, we're in trouble.

So why does video game addiction merit little more than a footnote in the latest DSM, the manual for understanding and diagnosing mental illness? Studies have been conducted which look at the source of the problem. We've moved past the wagging finger of maternal disapprobation, which tells us, "just switch it off, for God's sake," and are now just starting to take it seriously.

The right questions are at least now being asked: How can a video game become addictive? What is it in the brain that switches, or was always ready-to-go, which makes a person sit until their back aches and their eyes stream? What turns a hobby into a sickness?

A recent study looked into motivations in video gaming addiction: A questionnaire asked gamers found on video game websites what they got out of the gaming. They got a huge number of respondents: over 1,600. The survey justified stereotypes: Participants were 87 percent male, 79 percent white. Joseph Hilgard, one of the researchers, said he came to the study thinking they might learn more about the reward pathways in the brain — the "go-to" areas in addiction research.

When we do anything that triggers our brain's reward system, that information gets locked into our brains. A reward system is, basically, a system that governs how the brain feels when we do something — a chore, a job, anything — that results in reward at least some of the time. If we keep getting a reward for the same task, we start to understand the relationship between the two and our brain builds the appropriate connections. It means the next time we come across the chance to do that same task, we assume we're at least a bit likely to get a gift in return. How strong the reward system is in our brains depends on how often we get the reward and how big of a reward it is.

Video games are built to exploit this part of our brain. Kill monster, get points. Complete level, get happy music. Win game, feel satisfied. It's a very simple and primitive part of who we are. We react the same way to everything, from food to sex, in education and even in our relationship with our parents, who, if they are good parents, scold bad behaviour and reward good.

"[This is what] we expected to be the number one thing," Hilgard says, "Thinking that what makes Diablo so addictive is the small chance of getting treasure for every monster you kill." Diablo is a video game, produced by the same people as World of Warcraft. Psychologists call this PRE, or Partial Reinforcement Effect, in which the reward is only offered randomly, some of the time, such as in gambling. This leaves gamers hoping that just round the corner lies the suit of armour, gold, or some other reward they've been waiting for.

That "reward" plays a part in the psychology of addiction is certain: Plenty of gamers will be familiar with the phrase "just ten more minutes". But Hilgard and his researchers discovered other results from the survey, things they did not expect. First of all, a lot of people said they felt they were "duty bound" to go online, that "people were relying on them." Online games, like World of Warcraft or Eve Online, feature massive worlds. So massive that you're not very strong by yourself, and people aren't too strong without you. "All for one and one for all" counts double if you're a gamer.

So most people join guilds — in-games factions — in order to achieve more within their virtual life. But with that benefit comes a cost: social responsibility. Often, you need to play every day and often it means several hours per day. If you don't play, there are people (granted, somewhere else in the world) who will think badly of you. They'll slander you on the forums and blacklist you from future raids. And, anyway, people like to feel included, so aside from the threat of social gaming censure most people enjoy being part of a group.

You get benefits, such as better rewards and faster in-game advancement, but you inevitably have to give back to the community which has helped you. In World of Warcraft, "raids," in which groups of players dive into a monster-invested cavern for rewards, can take a couple of hours and require quite a bit of organization, and most take place with upward of five people, and at a prearranged time. In his confessional autobiography Unplugged, video-game addict Ryan Van Cleave remembers countless missed dinners and social occasions he instead spent "plugged in" to Warcraft conducting raids. He wasn't just enjoying himself: He had promises to keep.

Social obligation itself can't really be a true addiction; it's just guilt. Anyone with a shred of conscience would feel bad leaving a team to fend for themselves if you'd made a promise to them. And it is just that, guilt, which can tie people into a lifetime of gaming. Not just guilt about your community or your guild, but for your character, too. Ryan devotes a few paragraphs to remember his Warcraft characters, who he loved and nurtured. Unfortunately, in exclusion of his real children, whom he neglected.

The other factor, in fact the largest reported factor found in the study, was escapism. Many people in the study reported that they enjoyed games because games took them out of the real world. These same people were the most likely to develop addiction-like symptoms. Why be a landscape architect when you could be an invincible mage? Or, feeling doomed to unpopularity in real-life, why not join a guild online? This isn't the first study to find the relationship between video games and escapism: A study in 2009 found 41 percent of its participants said they played to escape the real world.

In a way, video games are the spiritual successors to fantasy literature. Like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, or Shizuku in Studio Ghibli's Whispers of the Heart, people are escaping from their humdrum lives into a world of invented magic and wonder. This is why games like World of Warcraft are a gamers' "drug of choice": they span massive worlds, across continents and with thousands of quests to join. If someone has a powerful imagination, the real world doesn't really cut it anymore.

The difference is, video games are personalized and meticulously tested experiences which, unlike books, are constantly tinkered with by their manufacturers to be as "sticky" — that is to say, addictive — as possible.

Hyperactive imaginations aside, there are a number of people with more serious conditions that might look to video games to escape from real problems. People with depression can find a temporary high in these virtual wonderlands. In one of the worst cases in video game addiction, a Korean couple suffering from depression played Prius, a game in which you raise a child, until their real baby daughter died from starvation.

True to stereotypes, those with social phobias, or just poor social skills in general, are more likely to turn to gaming. Not only do games offer them that elusive social affirmation — NPCs, or non-playable characters, telling you how wonderful you are, how brave and so on — but there is the opportunity with online games to speak with real people, who share your hobby and are likely to be less judgmental than the people they know in real life.

Social stigma toward video games and the nagging knowledge that you're neglecting your responsibilities lead people deeper down the rabbit hole. Hilgard calls these "bad coping strategies": he says, "just like refreshing my browser tabs because I'm nervous and want to keep my mind off of something, gamers are often playing to forget their real-life problems." The problem is: The problems get worse, and so the pull to gaming gets even stronger. It's a vicious, downward facing, spiral.

Van Cleave's Unplugged is a study in this cycle of destruction, 300 pages of twisting every way he could to escape how hard life had become for him. And it only got worse. At every checkpoint in his life he could for many hours a day escape to a world in which he wasn't overweight, underemployed, disliked and disenfranchised, but instead a legend.

There's a lot more work to be done before we truly understand this stuff. Indeed, the science of addiction itself is still hopelessly infantile. In the meantime, gaming addicts are more or less on their own, and have to fight their addiction by figuring out what makes the real world so unappealing when compared the bright lights of the computer screen. And the rest of us have to keep an eye on games manufacturers stepping over the line from entertainment to exploitation.

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