The Apocalypticon ~ more Trump bizarreness, Harvard prisoners, Russian hacks, digital haters, Epipen a-hole, refugees


Rich cowards advising Trump — Once again, Silicon Valley’s oligarchs have been summoned to Donald Trump’s golden table, this time to assist the Jared Kushner-led American Technology Council in ‘modernising’ the government, a goal which is at once vague and arguably antithetical to every promise the president ran on.
The ‘guest’ list includes the top brass of Facebook, IBM, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.
~ Stand up and bean-counted …

But California vows ‘any and all legal action necessary‘ to stop Trump from touching its national monuments. EPA head Scott Pruitt spent a week insisting the Trump administration never discussed climate change when debating the decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, but now that the US has withdrawn from that agreement, he thinks it’s a great time to have a public debate in what sounds like some sort of twisted game show from Hell.
~ First prize: dinner with Trump. Second prize: two dinners with Trump. 

We live in a Dystopian World when … housing a prisoner in California for a year costs more than sending a student to Harvard — Governor Jerry Brown’s spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes a record $11.4 billion for the corrections department while also predicting that there will be 11,500 fewer inmates in four years (alternative source) because voters in November approved earlier releases for many inmates. The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. That’s enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard University and still have plenty left over for pizza and beer.

How Russia hacks — A new clue has emerged that suggests another line has been crossed. Nearly a year after news first broke that Russian hackers had breached the Democratic National Committee and published its internal files, a leaked NSA document pointing to Russian attempts to hack a voting-tech firm has again redefined the scope of the threat. Taken with the recent history of Russia’s digital fingerprints on foreign elections, it points to a disturbing trend: Moscow’s habit of hacking democratic processes has only gotten more aggressive and technically focused over time.
~ It used to be America that led in overseas election meddling. 

Face to face with digital haters — Yasmin Green leads a team at Google’s parent company with an audacious goal: solving the thorniest geopolitical problems that emerge online. She leads Jigsaw, the think tank within Alphabet tasked with fighting the unintended unsavoury consequences of technological progress. Green’s radical strategy for tackling the dark side of the web is to talk directly to the humans behind it: listening to fake news creators, jihadis and cyber bullies so that she and her team can understand their motivations, processes, and goals.
~ Not my idea of a good job, but I guess someone has to do it. 

Price gouging Epipen maker literally tells people to go f__k themselves — In August 2016, the pharmaceutical company Mylan came under fire for jacking up prices of the EpiPen from US$57 in 2007 to roughly US$600 in 2016. The public backlash was significant. But the chairman of Mylan has a message for critics: go f__k yourself.
The New York Times has a new article about the fact that prices for the live-saving allergy medication haven’t actually come down since last year. Chairman Robert Coury. This is how the New York Times describesCoury’s reaction to critics of Mylan’s price gouging: “Mr. Coury replied that he was untroubled. He raised both his middle fingers and explained, using colorful language, that anyone criticizing Mylan, including its employees, ought to go copulate with themselves.”

Digital footprints of refugees — Using search data collected by Google, researchers at the Pew Research Center have reconstructed the journeys taken by refugees flowing into Europe from the Middle East. It represents a new way of tracking migration patterns — but the technique could eventually lead to misuse.

In goodish news … Airbnb has just unveiled its Open Homes Platform, a home-sharing site for hosts motivated by goodwill instead of profits — For guests motivated by need rather than wanderlust. Specifically, Airbnb is going to begin by connecting refugees with hosts in Canada, France, Greece, and the United States. Ultimately, refugees will be just one group that the site aims to help: Site visitors can also nominate other groups of people for temporary placements, and the platform will expand to include them eventually.
~ But I hate that private individuals and companies know have to do what any decent society should be doing at a governmental level. 

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