The Apocalypticon ~ Send in the clouds, people tracking, hacking, relentless robotisation, various dangers, some good news


Send in the clouds — Cloud change climate change: People  are freaking out about how climate change is finally coming for the clouds, and silvering clouds could help defeat climate change (but would that mean people would stop bothering trying to change their damaging ways?)
Climates of stupidity:  The US Senate has confirmed Andrew Wheeler, former coal industry lobbyist, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. This in a 52-47 vote primarily along party lines. Wheeler, also a former Republican Senate aide on environmental issues, has been acting administrator since July, when former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned amid a host of ethics controversies. [Now we get the ‘mental’ part in ‘Environmental’.]
Climate change skeptic added to White House staff — Happer is back in the White House, still fighting against what he considers unfounded claims that our globe is in danger. But this time, his cause is backed by the man in the Oval Office.
First time Cat 5 — Cyclone Wutip the first Category 5 storm of any kind ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere in February.
Drug-filled rivers — Medicines including antibiotics and epilepsy drugs are increasingly being found in the world’s rivers at concentrations that can damage ecosystems.
Government climate policy does work — Renewable energy use and reduced energy use overall have helped carbon emissions remain flat or below average as the global economy continued to grow over the years. But, as new research has found, government policy also appears to play a large role.
And for you, eating to save the planet — It’s also about what you don’t eat.

People, privacy, tracking — Canada tracking citizens: Police, social services, and health workers in Canada are using shared databases to track the behaviour of vulnerable people including minors and people experiencing homelessness. And there’s little oversight and often no consent.
China to track the way people walk — You can tell a lot of things from the way someone walks. Chinese artificial intelligence start-up Watrix says its softwares can identify a person from 50 metres away, even if they have covered their face or have their back to a camera.
Congresswoman destroys Equifax CEO over data breach — In a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) asked whether Equifax CEO Mark Begor would be willing to share his address, birth date, and Social Security number publicly at the hearing. Begor declined, citing the risk of “identity theft,” letting Porter criticise Equifax’s legal response to the 2017 security breach that exposed almost 150 million people’s data of that sort to an unknown intruder. [Hah hah, Begor.]
User passwords emailed in plain text — An anonymous independent security researcher noticed their power company’s website was offering to email – not reset! – lost account passwords to forgetful users. Startled, X fed the online form the utility account number and the last four phone number digits it was asking for. Sure enough, a few minutes later the account password, in plain text, was sitting in X’s inbox. In this day and age! The companies service 15 million clients …
PDFs not so secure — Academics from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany say they’ve managed to break the digital signing system and create fake signatures on 21 of 22 desktop PDF viewer apps and five out of seven online PDF digital signing services.
Privacy in theory and in practice — A new privacy survey from IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that 81% of consumers say they’ve become more concerned about how companies use their data, while 87% think companies should be more heavily regulated on personal data management. So you’d think people would take actions in response to companies losing or misusing their data, but they’re not.
Have you heard the mantra ‘update your software to stay secure’? Many US cities are still running on 1980s software.

PepsiCo is ‘relentlessly’ automating — PepsiCo is spending $US2.5 billion ($3.5 billion) on a plan to restructure that involves laying off an untold number of its workers. Pepsi’s new CEO, Ramon Laguarta had said in an earnings call last week that Pepsi was already “relentlessly automating and merging the best of our optimised business models with the best new thinking and technologies”.

Starbucks might consider this, since robots don’t care about the music — You may not give a second thought to the tunes spinning on a constant loop at your favourite cafe or coffee shop, but one writer and podcaster who had to listen to repetitive music for years while working in bars and restaurants argues it’s a serious workers’ rights issue. Adam Johnson told The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti “I’m not suggesting that working at Applebee’s is the same as being at Guantanamo, but the principle’s the same.”
US companies installed more robots last year than ever before — Cheaper and more flexible machines put them within reach of businesses of all sizes and in more corners of the economy beyond their traditional foothold in car plants.
Those decent-paying oil jobs that help justify the industry? They’re getting automated, too.

Menagerie of dangers — Pedestrian deaths in the US reach 28-year high: the Governors Highway Safety Association has found the number of pedestrian deaths in the US has reached a 28-year high.
What happens to left over aid supplies? FEMA is planning to sell off hundreds of surplus trailer homes in Texas through a General Services Administration auction. [Ya know, coz they’ll never need those again!] But this does pose the question, what does happen to unused aid supplies?
Microsoft defends military work — Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is defending the company’s $479 million contract with the Pentagon to supply augmented reality headsets to the US military. [Ya know coz it makes money, basically.]
Drunk Russian captain sails massive ship into huge bridge — The ship hit the bridge and caused some damage to itself and the lower part of the bridge, though thankfully nobody was injured.

Good news? Despite the skeptics and powerful lobbying that seemed to all came from the same position of ‘what about the profits?!’, a new study found that the drinking habits of Berkeley residents got better and stayed better over the three years after a 2014 soft drink tax was passed.
And anger can be contagious, but you can stop the spread. For example, if you start to become happier with your life, a friend living close by has a 25% higher chance of becoming happy too. Yay!