Category: News

Trouble On The Hill

Syracuse University
Syracuse University

As a proud Syracuse University alum, I am very sad and troubled by what has transpired on ‘my’ campus over the past few weeks, where racist graffiti and vandalism have shut the campus down. Sadly, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, as a few years ago some Theta Tau pledges and brothers were suspended for a racist, tone deaf video that was part of a pledging ceremony.

In reading through the many stories that have been published about these most recent incidents, the thing that troubled me the most was something I noticed when these stories first broke. From a well reported timeline on SU’s “Daily Orange” newspaper, they layout the specific timing of the initial acts and the response of the university.

via SU’s Daily Orange

What struck me was the fact that I was on campus that weekend. I was on campus that weekend along with hundreds upon hundreds of prospective students and fellow parents of prospective students, taking tours of the campus and all the different schools on campus. That weekend was SU’s Fall Open House.

So putting on my ‘conspiracy cap’ for a moment, do we think that SU’s Administration and Admissions teams kept this on the low down during the Open House weekend, until all the prospective families had departed campus?

It would have been super awkward (and that is the understatement of the year) if SU had issued a public statement during their important Open House weekend for prospective students. I want to be clear that I have absolutely no factual evidence to back this up. I am purely speculating and connecting a few dots. And clearly, the timing of when SU’s Administration did make their initial response – 5 days after the initial event – only pushed back the media firestorm that has transpired over the past few weeks. But if there is any nugget of truth to this having any influence on the timing of their response, what does that say? No matter when the news broke, the fact of the matter is that every prospective student and parent that were up there that weekend for the Open House will be seriously reconsidering how SU fits into their future college plans based on what has transpired there.

I love Syracuse University. I bleed Orange. I was – and will continue to be – so proud of the diversity that was on the SU campus when I was there and in the years since. It was what made the school unique to me. It was not always sunshine and roses. There were issues, disagreements, and incidents. But that happens in any semi-closed environment that has such a diverse student body. The difference this time is that the level of respect that was present years ago has ceded to a culture where ignorant racists feel emboldened to spread their vile messages. This can not continue on the SU campus or in this country. My campus is better than this. We are better than this.

Adnan Syed Denied Second Trial

Back in 2014, the podcast Serial became an internet sensation as it broke down with great discipline and specificity the case, trial, and subsequent conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

The publicity and the serious, legitimate questions raised about Syed’s conviction and trial as a result of the podcast was so great that Syed’s case was re-opened and eventually he was granted the right to a new trial by the state of Maryland.

Well, that didn’t last long.

But on Friday, Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled in a 4-to-3 decisionthat while Mr. Syed’s defense lawyer had been “deficient” in not calling a potential alibi witness to testify during the trial 19 years ago, ultimately Mr. Syed was not “prejudiced” by that deficiency.

NY Times

I am not a lawyer, and my only exposure to this case was from the Serial podcast, however it would seem to me that if the defendant’s legal representation was referred to as “deficient” by the State of Maryland’s Court, then that would be grounds for a new trial. If key witnesses that were able to verify and legitimize critical facts and timelines in this case, then those people need to be heard.

I honestly don’t know, and don’t have a strong opinion about, whether Syed is innocent or guilty. What I do know is that there were enough questions raised by the Serial podcast that brings to light way too many leaps of faith that were taken in the original trial and conviction of Syed. As we have seen so many times over the years, corruption, prejudice, and hidden agendas can sometimes win the day within the Legal and Court System and you do do have to wonder if there is an over-zealous DA trying to keep the wraps on a very high profile case that would possibly expose a lot of dirty laundry in the state legal system of Maryland.

Boundless Informant

The inevitable next step after a major leak of information is the media actually publishing it.

The NSA has a massive, data mining tool called Boundless Informant, that essentially enables NSA to track and analyze practically all communication happening around the world, going as far as color coding those areas of the world that are ‘hot zones’ (appropriately colored red):

The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. One document says it is designed to give NSA officials answers to questions like, “What type of coverage do we have on country X” in “near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure.”

via The Guardian UK

Cars

Some interesting integrations and acquisitions within the Auto industries. First off, Kia will be integrating Google Maps into their car dashboards. While this will hardly be a reason to buy a Kia, the U/X is interesting and very similar to Google’s Chrome to Phone widget.

Users will also be able to send a POI or a destination to their car using a smartphone app, find the newest Kia dealership using Google Places, and control their on-board navigation system through voice commands.

I wonder if Kia will now be partnering with Google to provide cars for their ubiquitous Google Maps auto driving car or other such efforts.

In another Auto related move, Avis continues to try harder by this time snapping up the urban-ly popular ZipCar for a cool half a bil. To me, this move seems to be a bit of a defensive move on Avis’ part as it is clear that “traditional” rental car retailers are getting hit by these “quick rent” services like ZipCar, especially now that they have expanded up from hourly to the traditional daily rental space. In a way, Avis was probably a bit worried about the “WalMart Effect”, where a smart upstart competitor (ZipCar = WalMart) started eating away at market share by attacking a vulnerable area of the market (unserved market of urbanites/college kids who need a car to do quick errands or take a day trip = WalMart going after low income markets early on). Maybe Avis wasn’t in the mood to wake up one day and realize they were Sears.

And if we all really think about it, the car is just another device in the American household. Just a really expensive one.

Spys Like Us

A ring of 10-12 Russian spies was broken up yesterday by the FBI after a seven year investigation. They were Cold War “moles” that had infiltrated normal neighborhoods like Montclair, NJ, Cambridge, MA and other towns across the USA. It also appears that the way the spies went about their business was right out of the movies.

Criminal complaints filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday read like an old-fashioned cold war thriller: Spies swapping identical orange bags as they brushed past each other in a train station stairway. An identity borrowed from a dead Canadian, forged passports, messages sent by shortwave burst transmission or in invisible ink. A money cache buried for years in a field in upstate New York.

They even had the sexy redheaded siren.

Stories like this just fascinate me. The way the covert operations from CIA and FBI go about identifying these rings and understanding the signals that the spies use to communicate is just so cool. Makes you want to channel your inner Austin Millbarge and Emmit Fitz-Hume

Behind The Lens In Mumbai

An interview with Sebastian D’Souza, the photographer in Mumbai who took the photos of the terrorists that took over the city:

The gunmen were terrifyingly professional, making sure at least one of them was able to fire their rifle while the other reloaded. By the time he managed to capture the killer on camera, Mr D’Souza had already seen two gunmen calmly stroll across the station concourse shooting both civilians and policemen, many of whom, he said, were armed but did not fire back. “I first saw the gunmen outside the station,” Mr D’Souza said. “With their rucksacks and Western clothes they looked like backpackers, not terrorists, but they were very heavily armed and clearly knew how to use their rifles.

Know Your Credit Default Swaps

If you are a little befuddled about what caused this economic mess we are currently in and will continue to be in for at least the next 18-24 months, take a few hours and listen to This American Life’s Giant Pool of Money and Another Frightening Show About the Economy. They are two amazingly clear and informative podcasts about what caused this mess and how the “geniuses” on Wall Street brought the modern economic system to its knees.

Worse or Dead Worse

Interesting article by Jim Cramer in NY Magazine this week about the sorry state of the economy today and what could possibly happen a year from now:

What will New York look like a year from now? The answer: bad and probably worse, and perhaps downright catastrophic. Three degrees of awful. The first step was passing the bank-bailout legislation. Now that it’s done and if it didn’t get done we would have been looking at a guaranteed economic collapse, the critical issue will be presidential leadership. And while any president will be an improvement over the current one, there is a growing belief on Wall Street that Barack Obama has the capacity to lead us out of this wilderness while John McCain does not. I’ll go a step further: Obama is a recession. McCain is a depression.

No matter how we cut it, things are just screwed up.

My School’s Nickname is Officially A Fruit

An era has ended at my alma mater Syracuse University. The school has officially changed the nickname of the school’s athletic teams from Orangemen/Orangewomen to just plain Orange. I guess the administration wanted the school to join other institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, and Wellesley as schools whose athletic nicknames are colors. Unfortunately, the colors of these other schools cited can not be mistaken for a fruit. I don’t know if I like this move. I was partial to the old Orangemen monniker. They should have gone back to the Saltine Warrior!

I think one positive that can be taken from this move is the fact that they seem to have finally jettisoned that amazingly stupid logo that they force fed down our throats when I was there in the early 1990’s, along with several other logos, in favor of the one posted to the right. They seem to have addressed an obvious branding problem as there were several versions and instances of a Syracuse logo treatments out in the public eye with no unified treatment.

Now, if they ever considered changed the nickname to something like the Salukis, the Boll Weevils, or my personal favorite, the Palidins….hmm, I think I will stick with Orange.

Blackout

The NYC area is recovering from the huge blackout. Where I am living (Central NJ), we were not really effected by the blackout. There was a “brown out” when all the power went down around 4:15PM on Thursday but then everything turned back on and it was as usual. The weird thing was that I was planning on visiting friends in NYC that evening as a friend was in town from Singapore. I thought about traveling into NYC early that day, but decided against it. I am sooooo glad I did not travel in early, because I would have been stuck in NYC. Literally “Escape from NY“. The video footage of the people waiting to board the NY/NJ ferry was insane, as were the photos of people sleeping on the steps of the US Post Office on 34th Street (Opposite MSG). Overall, I am very happy that I decided to stay around a little longer, because I would not have been happy to be stuck in NYC. I think this is one of my biggest problems with the NYC area…the fact that if something goes wrong, it can cause a near riot and a completely unfathomable situation. Is it really worth it?