The Apocalypticon ~ US angst, Japanese negativity, Snowden app, Facebook and Twitter propaganda, Apple slowing devices, Christmas spirit

Better off — Are you doing better than the previous generation? The Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC, asked nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe that question this past spring. Residents in 20 countries said people like them were better off than they were 50 years ago. In Vietnam, 88% felt better off, followed by India (69%), South Korea (68%), Japan (65%), Germany (65%), Turkey (65%), the Netherlands (64%), Sweden (64%), Poland (62%) and Spain (60%)… but the US was among the other 18 countries in which people said they were actually worse off than half a century ago. In Senegal, 45% felt this way, followed by Nigeria (54%), Kenya (53%), the US (41%), Ghana (47%), Brazil (49%), France (46%), Hungary (39%), Lebanon (54%) and Peru (46%).
Perhaps Americans have a point – one in five American households have ‘zero or negative’ wealth.
~ It’s mostly down to inequality and distribution, but they keep voting for more of it. President Trump’s tax proposals won’t give America’s middle class the reprieve they need to grow their wealth and recover from the financial crash. 

Japan’s negative births — The number of births in Japan this year has fallen to is lowest since records began more than a century ago with about 941,000 new babies, the health ministry said on Friday, proof if any were needed that it faces an ageing and shrinking population. The number of births will be about 4% lower than last year and the lowest since the government started compiling data in 1899, the ministry said. “What’s behind this is a continuous decline in the number of women in the typical childbearing age bracket of 25 to 39.”

Snowden’s guardian app — The NSA whistleblower and a team of collaborators have been working on a new open-source Android app called Haven that you install on a spare smartphone, turning the device into a sort of sentry to watch over your laptop. Haven uses the smartphone’s many sensors – microphone, motion detector, light detector, and cameras – to monitor the room for changes, and it logs everything it notices. The first public beta version of Haven has officially been released; it’s available in the Play Store and on F-Droid, an open source app store for Android.

No cure for Alzheimers — Few afflictions carry the existential dread that dementia does. While it’s bad enough that there isn’t a treatment that can stop the progression of Alzheimer’s once it’s apparent, a new series of papers published this week suggests something even more disheartening: There might be nothing you can do to prevent it, either.
~ But hey, there’s never any harm in eating right, being active, and being cognitively and socially engaged.

Elderly excluded from jobs in Facebook ads — Verizon is among dozens of leading employers in the US, including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself, that placed recruitment ads limited to particular age groups, an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found. The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers. Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment.

Russian Facebook trolls tool — Facebook has made available a tool to allow users to see whether they had liked or followed a page linked to Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 US election. Facebook had promised to make such a tool available in November, after the company revealed in a congressional hearing that more than 140 million people may have been exposed to Russia-linked propaganda during the 2016 election cycle.

But wait, there’s also Russian Twitter in the UK — Fake social media accounts linked to Russia were used to influence and interfere with public debate in the aftermath of four terrorist attacks in the UK this year, researchers have found. At least 47 Russian Twitter accounts posted material after attacks at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park, according to researchers at the Cardiff University Crime and Security Research Institute.

Apple slowing your iDevices — Apple last week confirmed what many customers have long suspected: it has been slowing the performance of older iPhones. Apple says it started the practice a year ago, to compensate for battery degradation, rather than push people to upgrade their smartphones faster. But even giving that benefit of the doubt, there are plenty of better ways Apple could have accomplished the same goal without betraying customer trust.
~ For myself, I’ve noticed a significant and annoying lag whenever I launch the Camera app until it becomes available to shoot on my iPhone 6.

And the good news? Er, is it that Christmas makes people ‘horny‘. Crikey. Anyway, all the best from me for the festive season and the New Year (he writes as he’s about to head off to work on Boxing Day!).