The Apocalypticon ~ Nazis. Trump. Putin. Germany. Sexist machines. Fish wars. Accuweather fixes dodgy app.


Nazis. We’ve recently seen the ugliest face of white nationalism in the United States. In both its structural and personal forms, racism shouldn’t surprise anyone (unfortunately).
As political scientist David Karpf has argued, these violations must be met with penalties or the norms fade away. However, just to underline US presidential hypocrisy on this kind of thing, President Trump just pardoned controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted for disobeying a judge’s order to stop detaining people illegally, seemingly because he was popular! But even if you knew that virulent hate groups existed, they’re fringe enough that most have never spoken to their members. If people engage with them, can they be recruited back into humanity?

Lamar wall cloud with very large hail falling. Taken on chase of this extreme storm near Lamar in Colorado, Denver, North America, USA. (At least Accuweather has nixed its app’s secret tracking behaviour.)

Trump’s equivocation has even managed to put off the Russians. The Kremlin had long played along with President Trump’s extreme rhetoric while he lionized Vladimir Putin – meanwhile cultivating the American right’s faith-based, family-oriented, anti-immigrant agenda. But Trump’s failure to instinctively condemn Charlottesville’s swastika-toting marchers seems to have crossed a bright red line for them. Defeating Hitler’s Germany as 27 million Soviet citizens died is a key pillar of Russian national pride; recently the Russian media has expressed dismay over the president’s equivocation. Relations had already soured – now, indulging the ghosts of fascism may forever taint Moscow’s formerly favourite US leader.

Germany, though, reckons it cannot end up with a Trump. Seven decades after World War II, a leader like President Donald Trump would have almost no chance of political success in Berlin thanks to the unique historical, political, social and cultural stories of the United States and Germany and the tumultuous path they have taken over the last century.
~ Seems like a hell of a price to pay to get to that conclusion – can America do it without world war and a Holocaust? But it’s a good question:
“Why does the US, the political, moral and military leader of the Western world since the end of World War II, now have a dangerous laughing stock, a man who has isolated his country, as its president? Why does Germany, a former pariah, now enjoy a more positive political standing than ever before?”
“There will be time for reflection. Hopefully there will be time to rebuild. But now it’s simply time to be ashamed.” [My italics.] So tweeted Republican Garrett Johnson after Trump won the Republican presidential ticket, but soon after he was attempting to get tech experts into Trump’s administration teams. But tech practitioners have been abandoning Trump, and the administration’s tech team remains largely empty. The Office of Science and Technology, for example,  employs just 40 people, down from roughly 130 under Obama.

Machine learning failures because they learned from humans. Ironic or what? Two prominent research-image collections – including one supported by Microsoft and Facebook – display a predictable gender bias in their depiction of activities such as cooking and sports. Images of shopping and washing are linked to women, for example, while coaching and shooting are tied to men. Machine-learning software trained on the datasets didn’t just mirror those biases, it amplified them.
~ So our pure machines are now sexist. Nice one, tech nerds. Maybe it would be better if men simply weren’t allowed to vote

Fish wars coming — Battles over politics and ideologies may be supplanted by fights over resources as nations struggle for economic and food security. These new conflicts have actually already begun – over fish.
In 1996, Canada and Spain almost went to war over the Greenland turbot. Canada seized Spanish vessels it felt were fishing illegally, but Spain did not have the same interpretation of the law and sent gunboats to escort its ships. In 1999, a US Coast Guard cutter intercepted a Russian trawler fishing in the US exclusive economic zone. The lone cutter was promptly surrounded by 19 Russian trawlers. Fortunately, the Russian Border Guard and the Coast Guard drew on an existing relationship and were able to defuse the situation… Japan protested when 230 fishing vessels were escorted by seven China Coast Guard ships in the waters of the disputed Senkaku Islands. Incidents in the South China Sea between the Indonesian Navy and Chinese fishing vessels and China Coast Guard have escalated to arrests, ramming, and warning shots leading experts to suggest only navies and use of force can stop the IUU fishing.

Finally, some good news — Responding to privacy concerns (as reported last week on Mac NZ), AccuWeather is out with a new version of its iOS app that removes a controversial data sharing behavior. Earlier this week, security researcher Will Strafach called attention to the practice in a post and users took to Twitter to announce their intention to dump the app in droves. “AccuWeather’s app employed a Software Development Kit (SDK) from a third party vendor (Reveal Mobile) that inadvertently allowed Wi-Fi router data to be transmitted to this third-party vendor,” the company wrote in a statement accompanying the app update. “Once we became aware of this situation we took immediate action to verify the operation and quickly disabled the SDK from the IOS app. Our next step was to update the IOS app and remove Reveal Mobile completely.”