You lose your right to privacy when crossing the border.

That seems to be the news from this piece over at Vice:

Hundreds of thousands of travelers cross US borders every day. And none of them—save the precious few with diplomatic immunity—have any right to privacy, according to Department of Homeland Security documents recently obtained by MuckRock.

The US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Privacy Impact Assessment for the Border Searches of Electronic Devices outlines the finer points of border officials’ authority to search the electronic devices of citizens and non-citizens alike crossing the US border. What becomes clear is that this authority has been broadly interpreted to mean that any device brought into or out of the country is subject to the highest level of scrutiny, even when there is no explicit probable cause.

Based upon little more than the opinion of a single US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer, any device can be searched and its contents read. With approval from a supervisor, the device can be seized, its contents copied in full, or both.

Netflix for Books Grows

Interesting news:

Oyster launched a couple of years ago as a Netflix-style service for e-books, charging $9.95 a month for unlimited access to a library that has grown to more than 1 million titles. Today it’s expanding that model by launching its own e-book store.

To be sure, if you just want to buy e-books one-by-one, I hear there are a few places where you can already do that. However, co-founder and CEO Eric Stromberg suggested that the store will allow Oyster to offer a truly comprehensive selection of books to its readers.

Stromberg and co-founder Willem Van Lancker (Oyster’s chief product officer) gave me a demo of the updated app last week. The interface isn’t changing dramatically — you’ll just see a much wider selection of books, with titles available via subscription displayed side-by-side with those that are only available for individual purchase. (If you only want to see books that are available as part of your subscription, there’s a filter for that.)

One way to think about this is to go back to the Netflix comparison — sure, I do most of my online movie and TV viewing on Netflix, but if the service doesn’t have something I really want to watch, then I’ll consider buying it iTunes or elsewhere. With Oyster, everything’s available in one place, even if you have to pay for it in different ways.

Getting Divorced on Facebook

This is awful:

Ending a marriage is never easy, but Facebook may be able to streamline the process. The de facto platform for communication for just about everyone, the social network could take on a new role as a place to serve divorce papers.

This week, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper granted 26-year-old Ellanora Baidoo permission to serve papers to her elusive husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, via a Facebook message. People have served legal notices before using the network, but Baidoo’s case is one of the few in the U.S., and the first here that legally recognizes it as a means of official communication in divorce proceedings.

Why the Kraft-Heinz Merger Matters

From Pacific Standard:

Mergers and acquisitions in the food sector rarely draw the eye of supermarket shoppers. The companies involved are sometimes too obscure for customers to care—take for example the ongoing litigation surrounding the attempt to merge America’s two largest food service companies, Sysco and US Foods.

But name recognition has brought the recently announced merger of H.J. Heinz Co. and Kraft Foods Group Inc. to the fore of business news. After all, these companies’ products are household staples—most readers of this article probably have a Heinz or Kraft product in their refrigerator right now. While this merger may seem innocuous—who cares that the mac and cheese company owns the ketchup company?—there could be serious ramifications for consumers and producers.

Greece’s Plan to Manage Its Debt

This is… devious:

In 1941, Axis forces from Italy and Germany moved into Greece and seized control of the country. The wartime occupation lasted four years, during which some 250,000 Greeks perished. Many died slow and tortuous deaths — around 40,000 people starved to death in Athens alone.

To add insult to injury, Nazi forces removed valuable archaeological artefacts and forced the Bank of Greece to loan it money, totalling billions, in today’s terms, which Berlin never paid back.

On Monday, Athens formally requested wartime reparations from Germany and, for the first time, named its desired price: 279 billion euros ($303 billion), as calculated by Greece’s central accounting offices.

Perhaps coincidentally, that figure is rather similar to the total value of Greece’s existing state debt, at over 320 billon euros.

Coming (Back) to America

In light of yesterday’s awful news, I’m re-sharing this old piece by Thabiti Anyabwile:

When my wife and I announced we would be moving back to the States to plant a church in Southeast DC, we met three reactions. People who loved us over these past eight years and appreciated our ministry expressed their love and sadness that we were leaving Cayman. Those same people and many others then quickly sent us tremendous amounts of encouragement, prayer and practical help. Then there were those who had a question. They asked, “Are you afraid?” or “Do you have any fears?”

My elders in Cayman asked that question. The elders here at CHBC asked that question. A few individuals asked that question. And some people have worn their concern on their faces.

When asked the question, I’d usually pause. Not because I didn’t have an answer, but because some fears feel too real when you give them words. So I’d pause. Then I’d say two things: “Truthfully, the Lord has kept us from any fears that we can discern about planting the church or living in Southeast. If I have a fear it would be one thing: bringing my son Titus to the United States. He’s so tender and innocent and the States can be very hard on Black boys.”

That’s my one fear. This country destroying my boy. Ferguson is my fear. I could be the black dad approaching a white sheet stained with his son’s blood. I could be the husband holding his wife, rocking in anguish, terrorized by the ‘what happeneds’ and the ‘how could theys,’ unable to console his wife, his wife who works so hard to make her son a “momma’s boy” with too many hugs, bedtime stories, presents for nothing, and an overflowing delight in everything he does. How do you comfort a woman who feels like a part of her soul was ripped out her chest?

Reviving a Dead Language

This is a project to get excited about:

This Easter season, we are pleased to announce the launch of the Davenant Latin Institute, our largest project to date. Responding to the urgently-felt need among many seminarians and graduate students for instruction in theological Latin, we have worked to develop a program of online courses that can prepare these students for serious engagement with the vast library of untranslated early Protestant texts. It is our hope that not only will these courses be a blessing for many students in their studies, but that they will help equip an army of translators who will bring many of these texts back into the church  in the coming years.  (To read more about the importance of this work, read Peter Escalante’s brief essay.)

The Pleasure of Opening Day


Baseball’s Opening Day often occasions syrupy prose about optimism and opportunity and clean slates. Every team starts with the same record. Have hope. Anything could happen. Even the most reliable losers could be winners this time around!

I say, no. Be a realist. This is going to be a tough year for fans of the Texas Rangers. And a disorienting one for baseball junkies in the Bronx who no longer have any of their career-Yankee legends. Enjoy A-Rod, I guess. And the only great assurance for the fans of the Philadelphia Phillies is that their ballpark now mercifully allows the sale of hard alcohol.

But even the realism of Opening Day should still be a relief. Because unlike nearly every other part of American life right now, in baseball, the rules and stakes are relatively clear. At the end of the game there is no dispute over who won or lost. The teams and their fans do not get to walk away with a conflicting set of facts. The greatness of an opponent is a threat only to your team, not to your sense of self-worth, or your feeling of membership in your country.

Stanford’s Daring Financial Aid Plan

From Vox:

If a student’s parents make less than $125,000 per year, and if they have assets of less than $300,000, excluding retirement accounts, the parents won’t be expected to pay anything toward their children’s Stanford tuition. Families with incomes lower than $65,000 won’t have to contribute to room and board, either.

Students themselves will have to pay up to $5,000 each year from summer earnings, savings, and part-time work. There’s no rule that parents can’t cover their students’ required contribution.

Stanford is much more generous toward middle-class and upper-middle-class students than the federal government is. Most students who get subsidized loans and federal Pell Grants come from families making less than $60,000 per year. But it also enrolls an outsize proportion of wealthy students. In 2010, the university’s director of financial aid said the median family income at Stanford was around $125,000.

On the other hand, only 14 percent of entering freshmen got federal Pell Grants in 2012, which typically go to students from families making less than $50,000 per year. Nationally, 41 percent of undergrads received Pell Grants.

How Google’s AdSense Censors the News

From TAC:

Is Google trying to censor news it deems “inappropriate” for public consumption?

That’s what the editors of several news websites are asking after recent tussles withGoogle AdSense, the online advertising behemoth that generates revenue for publishers by placing third-party “pay per click” or “pay per impression” ads on their sites. Publishers need only sit back and collect the checks, which can add up to thousands of dollars a month, depending on traffic.

AdSense brings in about $13 billion a year to Google’s coffers, about 24 percent of its overall revenue. According to its fourth-quarter earnings report in January, Google earned $3.72 billion in the last months of FY2014 from ads appearing on its network partners’ websites. In 2011, the company said it paid 68 percent of ad revenue back to the sites that participate in AdSense. All added up, that’s a lot of cash.

Until, of course, a publisher runs afoul of Google’s Terms and Conditions. Google says it tries to guarantee its advertisers that their ads will only be displayed on “family-friendly” websites. That includes a strict prohibition on “violent content,” a rule the company says is applied across the board—and is apparently blind to context.

“If your site has content which you wouldn’t be comfortable viewing at work or with family members around, then it probably isn’t an appropriate site for Google ads,” according to Google’s guidance for “Adult Content.”

But “family-friendly” is a vague standard that can lead to poor, context-free judgements about content, as some publishers, including The American Conservative, suspect after recent brushes against those Terms and Conditions.