CNN Philippines Incorrectly Uses a Double Negative

I was reading an article in CNN Philippines recently when I noticed a use of the double negative: “Neither side has given no quarter in an ongoing territorial dispute over a portion of the South China Sea.” The use of double negatives is not inherently incorrect. The correctness of a particular use depends on whether the sentence in question conveys the writer’s intended meaning.

To “give no quarter” means to show someone no mercy. The sentence in question specifically refers to a territorial dispute. Thus, to say that neither China nor the Philipines have given no quarter is to say neither country has not shown any mercy in the dispute; that is, both sides have shown mercy.

Was this the intended meaning though? The first half of the article clearly details the acrimonious relationship between the two countries. One might argue that the second half of the article indicates the existence of warm economic relations between the two countries. If so, perhaps this warm relationship itself is evidence of the mercy shown by both countries.

Such an argument, however, ignores the fact that the act of giving no quarter refers specifically to the territorial dispute. Although the two countries have a warm economic relationship, they have a frosty geopolitical relationship. The poor geopolitical relations are evidenced by the Philippines’s arbitration case against China, the name-calling, and the possibility of a future worsening of relations. If we accept that “giving no quarter” refers solely to the geopolitical relations between these two countries, it seems obvious that the use of this double negative is incorrect.

The difficulty of using this phrase correctly is perhaps compounded by the fact that “give no quarter” is inherently negative. Thus, to use any negative on top of this phrase automatically produces a double negative. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that the phrase “give any quarter” can be used as its opposite.

In 1811, Volume XIX of William Cobbett’s Political Register used the phrase “never give any quarter” to describe the savagery of soldiers who showed no mercy to their enemies. In a 1965 article, the Herald-Journal used the phrase “Neither side willing to give any quarter” in the title of an article on the Vietnam War. More recently, the English Rock Band Cutting Crew also used the phrase “give any quarter” in  the 1986 album Broadcast.

Perhaps it would have been more accurate for CNN to describe the geopolitical relationship between the Philippines and China as one in which “Neither side has given any quarter.”

A Distinction Without a Difference

Less than 2 weeks ago, Dr. Adrian Hearn, a specialist in Asia-Pacific studies at the University of Melbourne, spoke regarding whether tensions between the United States and China would result in a military confrontation. Here are the exact words he used:

I would refer to this as a flashpoint more than as an imminent point of ignition.

I must admit to being confused. If a flashpoint isn’t an imminent point of ignition, what exactly is it?

Amazon Now Delivers Pizza…Or Maybe Not

Have you ever read a news article and noticed that the picture being used was not of the topic being discussed, unhelpful, or downright misleading? Take a look at this recent article by the respectable publication PC World, for example. The article talks about Amazon’s criticism of the FAA over its drone regulation. The picture at the very top of the article shows a picture of a drone with a cardboard box attached to the bottom. The propellers are spinning, implying that the package is in motion; perhaps even being delivered.

Or is it? Continue reading Amazon Now Delivers Pizza…Or Maybe Not

Personal Details Inadvertently Leaked Along With Jeb Bush’s Published E-mails

As many Americans have no doubt heard, probable 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush has publicly released a large number of e-mails from his tenure as Florida’s governor. Unfortunately, in their rush to release the e-mails, his staff neglected to redact sensitive information from his constituents such as real names, physical addresses, e-mail addresses, and Social Security numbers! According to the article, Bush’s staff is working on fixing the problem.

I’m not sure why anyone would include their Social Security numbers in an e-mail to their governor, but the incident reminds us that we may not always be the weakest link when a leak or breach occurs. This particular one may have been averted if senders had been more careful about including personal information in an e-mail to a public figure or if Bush’s staff had been more thorough, but there will be times when we have to send sensitive information or otherwise place it in the hands of another party, thus taking it out of our direct control. It is therefore not merely as individuals but as a society that we need to be more vigilant about our privacy and security.

iPhone Thefts Decrease Due to Kill Feature, But Don’t Get Too Excited

According to Reuters, thefts involving smartphones have declined in three major cities (San Francisco, New York, and London) after manufacturers implemented software-based kill switches into the devices. Smartphone theft is a serious problem. The article notes that in certain cities in California, smartphone thefts account for more than half of all crimes. Last year, California passed a law that requires all phones sold after July 1, 2015 to contain a kill switch. The full text of the bill is here if you’re interested in the details.

Before we all jump up and down and rejoice at the decrease in violent crime resulting from smartphones, however, consider these two arguments against kill switches in a Wired article: Continue reading iPhone Thefts Decrease Due to Kill Feature, But Don’t Get Too Excited

Privacy Concerns With Samsung’s SmartTV

Recently, media outlets have been reporting on privacy concerns with Samsung’s SmartTV. Much of the concern appears to be focused on the “Voice Recognition” section of their SmartTV privacy statement:

“If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.Continue reading Privacy Concerns With Samsung’s SmartTV

Modern Cars With Wireless Systems Are A Threat to Privacy And Security

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on flaws in the security and privacy of cars with wireless systems. The article was based on a report released today by the office of Ed Markey, a United States Senator for Massachusetts. The report is titled “Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers At Risk” and, as the title implies, focuses on the following two problems:

1. Wireless technologies allow hackers to “gain access and control to the essential functions and features of those cars.”

2. Other parties can “utilize information on drivers’ habits for commercial purposes without the drivers’ knowledge or consent.” Continue reading Modern Cars With Wireless Systems Are A Threat to Privacy And Security