tech, website permissions, robots.txt file, web crawlers, AI data use
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The Text File That Runs the Internet (Maria)

The author writes, “For three decades, a tiny text file has kept the internet from chaos. This text file has no particular legal or technical authority, and it’s not even particularly complicated. It represents a handshake deal between some of the earliest pioneers of the internet to respect each other’s wishes and build the internet in a way that benefitted everybody. It’s a mini constitution for the internet, written in code. It’s called robots.txt and is usually located at … Now AI has changed the equation: companies around the web are using your site and its data to build massive sets of training data, in order to build models and products that may not acknowledge your existence at all.”

RFK Jr. Apologizes to Family for Super Bowl Ad That Invoked President John F. Kennedy (Reader Steve)

From the Los Angeles Times: “A Super Bowl ad touting the independent presidential candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and invoked President John F. Kennedy drew the ire of the Kennedy family. … Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental attorney who is known for promoting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, responded with an apology. ‘I’m so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain,’ he wrote on X. ‘The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless you.’ However, he continued promoting the ad on his X feed, at one point pinning it to the top of his profile.”

US Democracy Hangs on Two Men’s Egos (Laura)

The author writes, “It should go without saying that anyone who thinks he can be president of the United States has a massive ego. With Trump, it’s obvious. Only an ego the size of a Goodyear blimp could be inflated by the loss of a presidential election. Biden’s ego is jumbo too, but it may be dwarfed by his cluelessness. He thinks he’s the one person who can beat Trump. In fact, he told donors in early December that if Trump were not running — and threatening to bring down American democracy — he’s ‘not sure’ he’d be running either. Biden’s implication is that only Biden can save American democracy. During the summer both voters and politicians were already publicly worrying that Biden’s age and flagging approval ratings would sink him in 2024. When he announced his run in September, Democratic voices urged him to step aside. James Carville advised his party to “wake the fuck up” and get another candidate.”

Have We Been Talking About Climate Change All Wrong? (Gerry)

From National Geographic: “For decades, environmental advocates have urged governments, companies, and individuals to take drastic actions to limit climate change and prevent the Earth’s average temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times. Now, some climate experts are advocating for a different target: They want to create limits for rising seas instead, setting the upper limit at about two feet or slightly higher, depending on the location. Relative sea levels along the U.S. coast have already climbed about a foot and could swell up to six more by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and methane are not significantly curbed.”

The Ominous Ingredient in Your Candy Hearts (Dana)

From Bon Appétit: “Your candy heart might lovingly read ‘Be Mine,’ but it’s probably best if you ‘Beware.’ Certain brands of the popular Valentine’s Day conversation hearts, such as those manufactured by Brach’s and Spangler, contain FD&C Red No. 3, also known as Red Dye No. 3, a synthetic colorant that’s now in the spotlight due to legislative action targeting ongoing concerns about its safety. More than three decades ago, the FDA banned the use of Red 3 in cosmetics, like lipsticks and blushes, because studies had found that high doses of the dye caused thyroid cancer in rats. But the ingredient has remained approved for use in food and medicines, and appears on thousands of product labels — mostly candies and beverages.”

Ukrainian Cats Boosting Military Funding Efforts Against Russia (Mili)

The author writes, “Bizarre as it may seem, cats have been helping Ukrainian troops secure funds for weapons and equipment for use against invading Russian forces. The pets’ overwhelming popularity on social media is being used to raise thousands of dollars in donations for Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline. Oleksandr Liashuk, a soldier stationed in southern Ukraine, told Business Insider that his cat, Shayba, has helped him collect more than $80,000 in fundraising. With the money they received, he said he was able to buy eight military vehicles, an anti-drone weapon, and a thermal-imaging camera for his unit.”

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