Category Archives: Apocalypse

The Apocalypticon ~ Sans Sharif, climate instability, bot-soldiers, Trump of course, piggybacking flood rabbits, Android virus vulnerability


Best headline this week: ‘Pakistan now Sans Sharif’ — Ever since the Panama Papers were anonymously leaked back in 2015, there has been a major shift in the political situation in many countries. One such is Pakistan, where the names of numerous members of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family were spotted in the papers.
To deflect examination, Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz submitted photocopies of several documents in order to deny corruption, but the documents were dated February 6, 2006 and contained Microsoft’s Calibri font. Which wasn’t commercially available until January 30, 2007.
Hah! Sharif has now been disqualified from his position as a part of the court’s final verdict of the case.

Climate change is fostering instability, bot attacks and Trump’s military — Climate change will escalate instability across the globe and make it harder for the US military to conduct its operations, according to two former admirals, a retired general, a once-ambassador to Nigeria, and the former undersecretary to the Secretary of Defense. Nothing they said, however, was all that new. In fact, the Department of Defense has known about, and sometimes planned for, the security threats created by climate change for well over a decade.
Maybe that’s why they want attacking bot-swarms to replace soldiers? Even though top soldiers have warned about the dangers of such things. Will Trump listen or care? probably not, as Trump’s mind-defying ban on transgender troops certainly cuts down the pool or available humans who want to kill people, sorry ‘defend’ people.
Trump: I consulted the military about the transgender ban. The military: no you didn’t. [This is what ‘streamlined government means, people.]

Researchers have discovered multiple unpatched vulnerabilities in radiation monitoring devices that could be leveraged by attackers to reduce personnel safety, delay detection of radiation leaks, or help international smuggling of radioactive material. Ruben Santamarta, a security consultant at Seattle-based IOActive, at the Black Hat conference on Wednesday, saying that radiation monitors supplied by Ludlum, Mirion and Digi contain multiple vulnerabilities.
But vulnerabilities are also opportunities. The Black Hat and Def Con security conferences now have a booming side business in recruitingWild rabbits escape floods on the backs of NZ sheep — Really. This remarkable scene was captured by a New Zealand farmer who said he’d never seen anything like it.

Antivirus for Android is pretty bad — Researchers at Georgia Tech who analyzed 58 mainstream options found that many were relatively easy to defeat, often because didn’t take a nuanced and diverse approach to malware detection. So have fun with those, Meanwhile, the forthcoming Apple iOS 11 will disable “Auto join” for any network which suffers from low speed issues or is deemed to be generally unreliable. Good-oh.

The Apocalypticon ~ houses on fire, be forgotten, laws and even more crazy stuff


Californian fires blamed on the housing crisis — California is on fire again. CalFire, one of the agencies charged with putting those fires out, is tracking upward of two dozen conflagrations up and down the state at the moment: Detwiller, Grade, Bridge, Wall, Alamo, Garza, on and on— ranging in size from a couple hundred acres to nearly 50,000. And it’s not just global warming, it’s because there are houses in more places than ever before.

No borders, so how do laws work? Recent court cases are threatening to make the situation even more difficult by demanding a country’s laws be honoured by companies like Google all around the world. On Wednesday, an ongoing case with terrifying implications was kicked up to the European Union’s highest court. In this case it’s the European law that guarantees a right to be forgotten.
~ Some we just wish we could forget. 

Yeah, you knew where this was going! At the first meeting of the Trump administration’s new advisory committee on election integrity [yes, I know! This kind of boils down to ‘Trump’s opponents need integrity, but Trump doesn’t’]  consisted mainly of voter-fraud fear-mongering. As he opened the event, President Trump wondered aloud whether states which have refused to comply with the committee’s massive request for voter data (because it violates state law) have something to hide. “What are they worried about?” he asked. “There’s something, there always is.”

Speaking of integrity, Sean Spicer finally showed some … by quitting. White House press secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned last Friday after opposing President Donald Trump’s appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. The president asked Spicer to stay in his role, but Spicer said appointing Scaramucci was a major mistake. Or so wrote The New York Times. NBC News later confirmed the resignation. Spicer tweeted later he will continue to serve through August.
But hey, most US Republican’s think education is ‘bad for the country’. So clearly they deserve to be ruled by a f_ _k-wit. In an increasingly polarised culture, the drastic shift is the latest piece of evidence that institutions of higher education — along with labour unions, banks, churches, and the news media — have been plunged headfirst into a hyperpartisan war.
[So please don’t bring back the draft.]
The US government has been taking steps to scale back its cyber-security. Sounds sensible, right? I mean, if you’re going to be so pally with the Russians, make things easier for them. And this in a world in which an American bloke built a robot to crack safes. [Or should that be to ‘click’ safes?] 

Trump has already started his 2020 election campaign with a big payment — to himself. According to the Trump campaign’s self-reported FEC filings, this has amounted to about $600,000 spent at Trump-owned properties in just the first six months of his presidency.
~ It’s ironic that people like me see him as stupid. We must seem so ridiculously, fundamentally stupid to him, that he can get away with all this.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the Prime Minister thinks the laws of maths don’t apply … to Australia. “Well the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia,” he said. Right. 
Yes, it’s all so inexplicable. Thank goodness we can explain human understanding with cats.

Plastic Earth — Since large-scale production of plastics began in the 1950s, our civilisation has produced a whopping 8.3 billion tonnes of the stuff. Of this, 6.3 billion tonnes – around 76% – has already gone to waste.
~ Another human triumph, right there. 

Artificial sweeteners make us fat — The theory behind artificial sweeteners is simple: use them instead of sugar, you get the joy of sweet-tasting beverages and foods without the downer of extra calories, potential weight gain and related health issues. In practice, it’s not so simple, as a review of the scientific evidence on non-nutritive sweeteners published Monday shows. After looking at two types of scientific research, the authors conclude there is no solid evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose help people manage their weight.
~ I’ve never been  fan of replacing something natural but bad with something unnatural. 

But I always like to end this procession of human-made disaster-porn on a positive note. So here’s all you need to travel securely. Gah …

The Apocalypticon ~ Annihilation, Black Death, fake journalists, arseholes, Trump (of course), and more abominable news for the world’s end


The Era of Biological Annihilation — From the common barn swallow to the exotic giraffe, thousands of animal species are in precipitous decline, a sign that an irreversible era of mass extinction is underway, new research finds. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calls the current decline in animal populations a “global epidemic” and part of the “ongoing sixth mass extinction” caused in large measure by human destruction of animal habitats. The previous five extinctions were caused by natural phenomena. Dr. Ceballos emphasized that he and his co-authors, Paul R. Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo, both professors at Stanford University, are not alarmists, but are using scientific data to back up their assertions that significant population decline and possible mass extinction of species all over the world may be imminent, and that both have been underestimated by many other scientists.

The Black Death and the environment — From 1347 to 1351, a nightmare disease ravaged Europe, afflicting victims with putrid black boils, fevers, vomiting, and in short order, death. Daily life ground to a halt as the Black Death spread along medieval trade routes, claiming an estimated 20 million lives with ruthless efficiency. Now, a team of researchers is asserting that the plague had an unexpected impact: it cleared the air of a toxic pollutant for the first time in over a thousand years.
~ I am not quite sympathising with the cost/benefit of this. 

Super accurate lip-synching could really fake the news well — Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that uses machine learning to study the facial movements of Obama and then render real-looking lip movement for any piece of audio. That means they can make videos of Obama saying pretty much anything they want, in whatever setting they want. The effect works especially well when they use random audio of Obama’s voice — say, an old recording of Obama as a law student — and make it look like Obama said these things yesterday.
~ One can only ask ‘why the hell did they develop this?’

But hey, don’t worry, as Google is funding rob-journalists — Robots will help a national news agency to create up to 30,000 local news stories a month, with the help of human journalists and funded by a Google grant. The Press Association has won a €706,000 ($800,779 or £621,000) grant to run a news service with computers writing localised news stories. The national news agency, which supplies copy to news outlets in the UK and Ireland, has teamed up with data-driven news start-up Urbs Media for the project, which aims to create “a stream of compelling local stories for hundreds of media outlets”… [Gah! And remember when robots were supposed to help us, not us help them?]
But it’s all OK, as just to level the playing field, Russia’s in that game too.  And if Trump’s data team did help Russians, Facebook may have the answer. And the creator of Nest home automation products wakes up in cold sweats wondering what then hell he’s unleashed on the world.

The internet is full of arseholes — That’s right, a nationally-representative US study on online harassment released by Pew Research today confirms what most of us already know: The internet is absolutely chock full of abusive dickheads. [And here I was beginning to worry.] So 41% of adults said they have experienced harassment online, and 66% said they’ve seen it happen to others.

Free speech advocates suing Trump for banning Twitterers — President Trump’s irate and irrational tweets have already landed him in trouble, and will, no doubt, continue to be an issue as he pushes for approval of his controversial travel ban before the Supreme Court. Now, free speech advocates are suing Trump not just for what he’s saying on the platform, but for what he’s preventing his constituents from saying to him. Meanwhile, his son has clearly shown intent to get dirt on Clinton from Russian sources (and this story is still growing), and here’s a guide to Russia’s infrastructure hacking teams.

A new study has highlighted the widespread gender and racial harassment of women of colour working in astronomy and planetary science — This harassment is now at levels unseen by any other gender or racial group in the field.
40% say they feel unsafe in their workplace because of harassment targeted at their gender, and 28% feel unsafe because of harassment targeted at their race, and this 100% needs to change. And just in case you thought artificial intelligence might fix this, it appears artificial intelligence has race and gender biases too. MIT Technology Review reports that the initiative is the latest to illustrate general concern that the increasing reliance on algorithms to make decisions in the areas of hiring, criminal justice, and financial services will reinforce racial and gender biases. A computer program used by jurisdictions to help with paroling prisoners that ProPublica found would go easy on white offenders while being unduly harsh to black ones. [All this makes me so unglad to be human. Thanks, ‘progress’.]

But at least it’s getting warmer … oh, wait! A 2200 square-mile, trillion metric-ton section of the Larsen C ice shelf has ‘calved’ off, a team of researchers at Swansea University’s Project MIDAS has reported, citing imaging from NASA’s Aqua MODIS satellite instrument. That’s the size of Delaware. Scientists have tracked the crack for more than a decade and they warned in June that the section was “hanging by a thread.” Its break, from Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf, changes the border shape of the peninsula forever even though the remaining ice shelf will continue to grow. And at least this calving won’t raise current sea levels. And the colder winters come from warming, weirdly. And the heatwaves ground planes.
And the Greenland ice sheet is vast, majestic, pristine….and peppered with bacteria that seem equipped to survive in industrial waste, according to a new study. Which really makes you question the whole the pristine bit, now, doesn’t it?

Contractor stuck in ATM passes terrible notes — A contractor (whose name has not been released) was fixing a lock in a room connected to a Bank of America ATM when, suddenly, he trapped himself in. Having left his phone in the car, he was unable to call for help. So, with an impending Castaway situation at hand, the man had to get creative — or else. One of the notes read. “I’m stuck in here and I don’t have my phone. Please call my boss…” Apparently, several customers thought the scribbled messages were pranks and ignored them until finally one patron got sufficiently spooked.

Human nature, huh? An umbrella-sharing startup in China lost nearly all its 300,000 umbrellas in a few weeks. Shenzhen-based Sharing E Umbrella was launched with a 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) investment with a concept similar to those that bike-sharing startups have used to (mostly) great success.

Finally, some good-ish news: research suggests people who drink coffee have a lower risk of dying from a host of causes, including heart disease, stroke and liver disease. “The connection, revealed in two large studies, was found to hold regardless of whether the coffee was caffeinated or not, with the higher among those who drank more cups of coffee a day,” reports The Guardian. [So, that coffee you drink to stay up and agonise about the end of the world might save your life. Yay.]

The Apocalypticon ~ US science ‘unstaffed’, Russia jails hacker, Petya Plague, money apocalypse, North Korean missiles


White House now has zero science advisers — The science division of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy was ‘unstaffed’ as of last week. The three remaining employees departed this week, sources tell CBS News… On Friday afternoon, Eleanor Celeste, the assistant director for biomedical and forensic sciences at the OSTP, tweeted, “Science division out. Mic drop” before leaving the office for the last time…
Under Obama, the science division was staffed with nine employees who led the charge on policy issues such as STEM education, biotechnology and crisis response. It’s possible that the White House will handle these issues through staff in other divisions within the OSTP.
[Pained LOL. In Trump’s Newspeak: ‘unstaffing’ replaces ‘firing’.]
But Trump wants all your voter data. Is that scientific? His newly formed Advisory Committee on Election Integrity [!] asked secretaries of state across the country for their complete voter rolls, including people’s political parties, voting history, the last four digits of their social security numbers, felony history and more. [Hey, those future concentration camps can’t fill themselves, you know.]

Russia jails hacker for spilling top government officials’ secrets —  A Russian court sentenced a prominent hacker to two years in jail on Thursday after a secret trial which heard how he had accessed and leaked the email accounts of top government officials, Russian news agencies reported. Vladimir Anikeyev was named as head of a famous hacking collective called Shaltai Boltai (Humpty Dumpty), guilty of illegally accessing computer data in collusion with a criminal group. The TASS news agency said he was accused of breaking into the email account of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman as well as the account of an official in the presidential administration among many others.
~ So they didn’t mind Snowden doing it, but now the foot has the other shoe!
The Petya Plague has exposed the threat of ‘evil software updates’ — Security researchers at ESET and Cisco’s Talos division have both published detailed analyses of how [Russian] hackers penetrated the network of the small Ukrainian software firm MeDoc, which sells a piece of accounting software used by roughly 80% of Ukrainian businesses.

Central bankers warned of economic ‘robocalypse’ — At an exclusive gathering at a golf resort near Lisbon [where else, this days?], the big minds of monetary policy were seriously discussing the risk that artificial intelligence could eliminate jobs on a scale that would dwarf previous waves of technological change. [Why not? ‘Natural’ intelligence has been busy at it for decades.] But two giants of AI have teamed up to head this off. Sorta.
Meanwhile, according to IBS Intelligence, websites of some of the largest banks in the US have scored the poorest in a new security and privacy analysis audit. “The non-profit Online Trust Alliance (OTA) anonymously audited more than 1000 websites, ranking their security and privacy practices,” reports IBS Intelligence. “None of the sites investigated knew about the test.” [Hurrah! And these are the idiots to whom we entrust our money.]

Analysing North Korea’s missiles — Using a video of Tuesday’s launch of what experts said is an ICBM capable of reaching Alaska, you can figure out the missile’s acceleration. And you can do this too.

The Apocalypticon ~ Warming oceans, Eclipse disruption, surveillance in China, gunshot detectors, AI on income, Mozilla bar, Russian hack-school, ultra secure PC, WannaCry deleted speeding tickets


The oceans are warming — If you are going to measure the changing climate of the oceans, you need to have many sensors spread out across the globe that take measurements from the ocean surface to the very depths of the waters. Importantly, you need to have measurements that span decades so a long-term trend can be established. Scientists have found that regardless of whose data was used or where the data was gathered, the oceans are warming.
This is all part of our sickening cities. Flooding in Quebec this spring damaged nearly 1900 homes in 126 municipalities, causing widespread psychological distress. Summer heatwaves are predicted to become more frequent and severe each year, putting more people at risk of injury and death. Vancouver and Toronto are working to manage these risks. Most Canadian cities need to work harder to include climate change in public health planning.

Solar eclipse disruption — On August 21, 2017, the contiguous United States will experience its first total solar eclipse since 1979. As the eclipse approaches, articles are appearing predicting the possibility of automobile traffic jamming rural roads. There is also concern about the ability of rural cellular networks to handle such a large influx. AT&T is bringing in Cell On Wheel (COW) systems to rural locations in Kentucky, Idaho, and Oregon, while Verizon is building a temporary tower in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The disruption could be frustrating to those trying to get p-laces to view the eclipse or share their photos via social networking. If cellular networks can’t handle the data, apps like Waze won’t be much help in avoiding the traffic. If communication is essential near the eclipse path, Astronomy Magazine recommends renting a satellite phone …
~ Which strikes me as ironic.

Facial-recognition technology, once a specter of dystopian science fiction, is becoming daily life in China — Authorities are using it on streets, in subway stations, at airports and at border crossings in a vast experiment in social engineering. Their goal: to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers. Ms Gan, 31 years old, had been caught on camera crossing illegally here once before, allowing the system to match her two images. Text displayed on the crosswalk screens identified her as a repeat offender. “I won’t ever run a red light again,” she said.
~ Gosh. You go, girl.

In more than 90 cities across the US, including New York, microphones placed strategically around high-crime areas pick up the sounds of gunfire and alert police to the shooting’s location via dots on a city map… ShotSpotter also sends alerts to apps on cops’ phones. “We’ve gone to the dot and found the casings 11 feet from where the dot was, according to the GPS coordinates,” Captain David Salazar of the Milwaukee Police Dept. told Business Insider. “So it’s incredibly helpful. We’ve saved a lot of people’s lives.”
~ Or how about issuing the mics to everyone who buys a gun? 

AI predicting neighbourhood wealth — According to Penny, an artificial intelligence that uses satellite imagery to predict income levels in the Big Apple and how they change as you tinker with the urban landscape, your income-area drops if you add a helipad. So it needs a bit of work.

Daniel Stenberg, an employee at Mozilla and the author of the command-line tool curl, was not allowed to board his flight to the meeting from Sweden despite the fact he’d previously obtained a visa waiver allowing him to travel to the US. Stenberg was unable to check in for his flight, and was notified at the airport ticket counter that his entry to the US had been denied. Although Mozilla doesn’t believe that the incident is related to Trump’s travel ban, the incident stirred fears among international tech workers, who fear they’ll miss out on work and research opportunities if they’re not allowed to travel to the US. The situation even caught the eye of Microsoft’s chief legal officer Brad Smith, who tweeted Stenberg to offer legal assistance.
~ Wait, aren’t Swedes evil Socialists who look after their citizens? Shudder!

Russian hackers are schooled — One reason so many talented hackers (malicious and benign) seem to come from Russia and the former Soviet States is the education. Krebs Security’s report compares how the US and Russia educate students from K-12 in subjects which lend themselves to a mastery in coding and computers – most notably computer science. It shows the Russians have for the past 30 years been teaching kids about computer science and then testing them on it starting in elementary school and through high school.

Super-secure self-destructing PC — The ORWL looks like the offspring of a Mac Mini and a flying saucer, and it’s nearly impervious to the probing eyes and code of data snoops, botnet admins, or the Thought Police. the 6-inch puck (above) rocks crafty encryption and for the paranoid, one of the software options is the security-first Qubes OS. But it’s physically guarded too: It can be accessed only with your password plus your NFC key fob. If you roam out of Bluetooth range, the ORWL locks itself. An accelerometer shuts down the machine if it’s moved while you’re gone and as a fail-safe, the motherboard is enclosed in a mesh sleeve that can’t be unscrewed, cracked, or even bored through, thanks to a circuit lining the interior that shatters at the touch of a drill bit.
The moment that barrier is breached, all your data is zapped—along with the hopes of your attacker. $1699 and up.
~ By George.

And finally, some good(-ish) news: roadside cameras infected with WannaCry virus invalidated 8000 traffic tickets in Victoria, Australia — Yahoo News reported Victoria Police officials announced on Saturday, June 24, they were withdrawing all speed camera infringement notices issued statewide from June 6 after a virus in the cameras turned out to be more widespread than first thought. But the infringement notices may be re-issued. At first it was discovered 55 cameras had been exposed to the ransomware virus, but they’ve now determined 280 cameras were exposed. The cameras are not connected to the internet, but a maintenance worker unwittingly connected a USB stick with the virus on it to the camera system on June 6.

The Apocalypticon ~ CIA snack-scam, Russian demands, cyber attacks, future-blind, Afghan camo, sexless Rubbermen, fighting Stalkerware


A crew of CIA contractors crafted a scheme to steal thousands of dollars worth of snacks from the agency’s snack machines. And they pulled it off – and then they got fired, of course.
This was no petty heist – the contractors apparently made off with over $US3000 of vending machine treats in a period stretching from the spring of 2012 to the autumn of 2013.
~ Diabolical! Wow, that really puts the Russians in their place, right? Now I really feel safe. OK, maybe not …

Western technology companies, including Cisco, IBM and SAP, are acceding to demands by Moscow for access to closely guarded product security secrets, at a time when Russia has been accused of a growing number of cyber attacks on the West, a Reuters investigation has found. Russian authorities are asking Western tech companies to allow them to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting the products to be imported and sold in the country. The requests, which have increased since 2014, are ostensibly done to ensure foreign spy agencies have not hidden any “backdoors” that would allow them to burrow into Russian systems. But those inspections also provide the Russians an opportunity to find vulnerabilities in the products’ source code – instructions that control the basic operations of computer equipment – current and former US officials and security experts said. IBM, Cisco and Germany’s SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and McAfee have also allowed Russia to conduct source code reviews of their products.

President Barack Obama reportedly approved the use of cyberweapons targeting sensitive Russian computer systems following the Kremlin-directed cyberattacks that upended the Democratic Party last summer, according to a new report from the Washington Post – one of the most comprehensive so far to describe the administration’s response to Kremlin cyber-aggression.

Unwillingness to foresee the future … Back in 2006, when the iPhone was a mere rumour, Palm CEO Ed Colligan was asked if he was worried: “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.” He was asked ‘what if Steve Jobs’ company did bring an iPod phone to market?’ Well, it would probably use WiFi technology and could be distributed through the Apple stores and not the carriers like Verizon or Cingular, Colligan theorised.
The point being, if you don’t understand a company’s goals, how can you know what their strategies and tactics will be?

The US government wasted millions of dollars dressing the Afghan Army in proprietary camouflage: the price tag for the never-ending, but occasionally paused, war in Afghanistan is well north of a trillion dollars by now. Nearly $US100 million ($132 million) of that is attributable to America’s generous decision to buy uniforms for the struggling Afghan National Army — and a newly released inspector general report says that as much as $US28 million ($37 million) of that cost was tacked on to pay for a proprietary camouflage pattern (above) that Afghanistan’s then-minister of defence thought looked cool.
~ I actually think it would be pretty effective … if they were fighting in Minecraft. 

After nearly four years, David Lewandowski has created a new entry in his highly successful rubbermen videos. Now they’re hungry. In 2011, Lewandowski scored a hit with a short video titled Going to the Store, in which one impossibly flexible, sexless computerised humanoid traipsed through real world footage. Now there is an army.

As if there aren’t enough tech security threats to worry about, you also need to be on your guard against so-called ‘stalkerware’ — those invasive types of programs installed by suspicious spouses, jealous exes or controlling parents without your knowledge. Here are the warning signs to look out for, and what you can do about them.

the Apocalypticon ~ Facebook bug, 3D ID, CIA hacks, Russian election infiltration, Trump heat, Apple answers


Facebook leaks to terrorists — Facebook first posted a detailed explanation of its counter-terrorism program, defending itself from criticism by European leaders in the wake of recent terror attacks in Britain and France and stating there is “no place on Facebook for terrorism.” But any goodwill earned by that post seems to have lasted less than a day, as a report revealed that a “bug” affecting more than 1000 Facebook content moderators inadvertently exposed some of their identities to suspected terrorists.
~ Tick’Dislike’

A French artist says he received a national ID Card using a computer-generated headshot — With a stunt that will probably see France initiating changes to its National ID card program, an artist named Raphaël Fabre submitted a photorealistic computer-generated image of himself – and he says it was approved without question. Fabre told Gizmodo that he modelled it by hand using 3D software, instead of digitising his head using a laser scanner.
~ If 3D models could have voted in the US, I doubt we’d have ended up with Trump. 

CIA hacking routers — In the latest instalment of its Vault 7 series of leaks, WikiLeaks has disclosed an alleged CIA program known as CherryBlossom. Its purpose is to replace a router’s firmware with a CIA-modified version known as FlyTrap. In some cases, WikiLeaks says, physical access to the device may not even be necessary.

The classified intel Trump leaked — President Trump spilled highly classified intelligence to Russian officials in the Oval Office. We now have a report on what kind of intelligence Trump shared. The extremely sensitive info was about ISIS plans to hide bombs in consumer electronics. And it came from Israeli cyber specialists who infiltrated a group of bombmakers in Syria.
~ Clearly, the man is a genius. 

Russia’s US election infiltration — If you had any doubt that Russian hackers attempted to meddle with the United States electoral system, a new report from Bloomberg states that not only did Russia go after a voting software supplier in one state (as previously reported by The Intercept), Putin’s cyber army reportedly targeted systems in 39 states. The hackers attempted to manipulate voter databases, the voter registration process, and voting machine software.
~ That’s in four out of five US states … Meanwhile, Trump’s defenders say his opposition will do anything to bring them down, without bothering to wonder why that might be. 

Here’s all the people Trump has blocked on Twitter — Trump loves Twitter because any brain spasm he has can be instantly translated into a thoughtless missive launched into the ether. Unfortunately, in addition to Trump’s loyal armies of patriots and trolls, Twitter also hosts both liberals and members of the lying liberal media – people who do not show President Trump the respect he believes (fervently) that he deserves. And for that, they must be blocked.
Trump has recently trained his sights on higher-profile targets. On the morning of June 13, Trump blocked the account for VoteVets.org, a group representing over 500,000 veterans, family members and civilian supporters. Not long after, Trump also blocked Simpsons extra and occasional novelist Stephen King.

Is it so bad the world gets a little hotter? Actually, yes — Many of us have at least a dim apprehension that the world is flying out of control, that the center cannot hold. Raging wildfires, once-in-1000-year storms, and lethal heat waves have become fixtures of the evening news—and all this after the planet has warmed by less than 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial temperatures.
But here’s where it gets really scary. If humanity burns through all its fossil fuel reserves, there is the potential to warm the planet by perhaps more than 10 degrees Celsius and raise sea levels by hundreds of metres. This is a warming spike comparable in magnitude to that so far measured for the End-Permian mass extinction. If the worst-case scenarios come to pass, today’s modestly menacing ocean-climate system will seem quaint. Even warming to half of that amount would create a planet that would have nothing to do with the one on which humans evolved, or on which civilisation has been built. The last time it was 4 degrees warmer there was no ice at either pole and the sea level was hundreds of metres higher than it is today.
But I always like to end with at least a little hope …

According to the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration, wind and solar produced 10 percent of the electricity generated in the US for the first time in March — The Hill reports: The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) monthly power report for March found that wind produced 8 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. that month, with solar producing 2 percent. The two sources combined to have their best month ever in terms of percentage of overall electricity production, EIA said. The agency expects the two sources topped 10 percent again in April but forecasts that their generation will fall below that mark during the summer months.

Apple issued a Green Bond after Trump edited the Paris Climate Agreement — Apple offered a $1 billion bond dedicated to financing clean energy and environmental projects, the first corporate green bond offered since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. The offering comes over a year after Apple issued its first green bond of $1.5 billion – the largest issued by a US corporation – as a response to the 2015 Paris agreement. Apple said its second green bond is meant to show that businesses are still committed to the goals of the 194-nation accord.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who feels he has had to work with Trump, defended this be stating “I feel a great responsibility as an American, as a CEO, to try to influence things in areas where we have a level of expertise. I’ve pushed hard on immigration. We clearly have a very different view on things in that area. I’ve pushed on climate. We have a different view there. There are clearly areas where we’re not nearly on the same page. We’re dramatically different. I hope there’s some areas where we’re not. His focus on jobs is good. So we’ll see. Pulling out of the Paris climate accord was very disappointing.”
In fact, some people have decided Cook’s stance is almost presidential …
~ But gosh, who would Samsung-using PC fans vote for? 

The Apocalypticon ~ Mystery red in the White House, Putin’s hints, climate, ‘iPad’, Windows 10, terror tactics, Android, spring cleaning for security


Mystery red light flickering in the White House — Internet-fuelled conspiracy theories have plagued US politics over the last year and made voters on both sides of the aisle appear to be reactionary maniacs. But conspiracy theories can also be fun. And the entirely benign saga of red lights flashing in the windows of the second-floor residence of the White House (below) is about as fun as these things get.
~ It’s flashing SOS …

Putin hints at Russian hacking of the US election — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year to help the presidential campaign of Donald J Trump. Putin continued to deny any state role, but his comments to reporters in Saint Petersburg were a departure from the Kremlin’s previous position: that Russia had played no role whatsoever in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and that, after Mr. Trump’s victory, the country had become the victim of anti-Russia hysteria among crestfallen Democrats.
~ Which hints to me that Putin has realised that investigators will soon prove links. 

Australian scientists react to more Trump narrow-minded idiocy — Climate experts at The Australian National University have weighed in on what the potential global fallout would be if Trump does pull the pin. For example, Associate Professor Nerilie Abram from ANU Research School of Earth Sciences: “There is no doubt in the science. The greenhouse gases that we are putting into Earth’s atmosphere are changing our climate.”
~ Ah, what do scientists know? 

North Korea creates ‘iPad’ — Ryonghung, a North Korean technology company, recently announced a new tablet. It looks a lot like the weird, firewalled computers the country has produced in the past, with the addition of one curious new feature: The name. It’s called… the iPad.

Windows 10 tracks “too much” — Are we surprised?

Android unleashed — As an engineer at the Apple spinoff General Magic, he built some of the world’s first internet-connected portable devices. As CEO at Danger, he created the Sidekick, a smartphone that defined the category before anyone had invented the term. And then, of course, Rubin created Android, the operating system found in more than two billion phones, televisions, cars, and watches. And he has new plans … and should you want to ditch your secure, powerful iPhone for a bug-ridden, mixed-up, non-standardised and insecure platform of wannabe copyism, here’s your guide.

Tech-created inequality can be solved … by tech — The inequality of badly-run or corrupt states is boosted by the power of technology, but it’s also easier than ever to destabilise these states, thanks to technology. The question is: which future will prevail?” As technology – specifically, networked technology – makes it easier for opposition movements to form and mobilize, even under conditions of surveillance, and to topple badly run, corrupt states.

Private security company used counter-terrorist tactics against Standing Rock — A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, reports The Intercept, decrying “the fusion of public and private intelligence operations.”

Finally, something positive: how to spring clean to make your devices less vulnerable — This is from Wired.

The Apocalypticon ~ NZ penguins, more Trump idiocy, seed vault floods, dumping Google, passwords, Dark Age medical


Our Yellow Eyed Penguin is perilously close to extinction — The adorable New Zealand bird, which even graces the currency, is dangerously close to extinction going by at least at one well-monitored mainland breeding ground.
And it’s (probably) all our fault. Meanwhile, Trump plans to increase defence funding while slashing the Environmental Protection Agency budget while wars are killing hardly any Americans while environmental problems kill 200,000 a year

According to Politico, Trump’s staff regularly prints articles from the internet and hands them to the president. Sometimes, they hand him internet hoaxes they believe are real, which explains so much.
~ Well it doesn’t, because what kind of idiot operates like this? Oh, wait. Guess what?

The info Trump gleefully handed over to the Russians was classified even higher than ‘Top Secret’. According to the Washington Post, the information Trump shared with the Russians is what’s called Code Word classified, which is higher than the classification known as Top Secret. Meanwhile, Gizmodo tested Trump’s Florida security and found it eminently hackable.

Norwegian seed vault floods — Trump, of course, denies that climate is changing. Designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever, the Global Seed Vault, which recently took a new tranche of NZ plant species, is buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle. But it has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel. And scientists (what do they know?) have worked out tat 10-to-20 centimeter (four-to-eight inch) jump in the global ocean watermark by 2050, which is considered a conservative forecast, would double flood risk in high-latitude regions.

Dumping Google — Google trades your data, that’s what’s made it rich, which is why I’m no fan of Android smartphones or even Gmail accounts, for that matter. If you’ve had enough of Google meddling in your affairs, here’s how to make sure it’s a clean and uncomplicated break.

Group fights having to hand over passwords — The human rights group Cage is preparing to mount a legal challenge to UK anti-terrorism legislation over a refusal to hand over mobile and laptop passwords to border control officials at air terminals, ports and international rail stations… This even happens at Auckland airport, btw, with Homeland Security officers taking aside passengers ‘at random’ from flights heading to, or even transiting, the States.
And then … 560 million passwords have been discovered on an online database.

Medicine heading for the Dark Ages — Without real action of the over-prescribing of antibiotics, we’re heading for new medical Dark Ages.

The Apocalypticon ~ Data surpasses oil, family spyware, Android malware, Trump soul-crusher punishing women, giant ice crack 2,


An oil refinery is an industrial cathedral, a place of power, drama and dark recesses: ornate cracking towers are its gothic pinnacles, flaring gas its stained glass, the stench of hydrocarbons its heady incense.
Data centres, in contrast, offer a less obvious spectacle: windowless grey buildings that boast no height or ornament, they seem to stretch to infinity. Yet the two have much in common
A new commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data – the oil of the digital era.

Over half of US-UK people think family spyware is OK — A new study showed 53% of people believe it’s legal to install a program on a family member’s phone to snoop on their activity. The survey of more than 2,000 people in the US and UK by software comparison service Comparitech.com also finds 57% would consider spying on their children’s phone conversations and messages.
~ Please note, all you wannabe data vigilantes, it is generally illegal to install an app on another person’s phone without their knowledge.

New instance of Android malware discovered every ten seconds — Security firm G Data says that a new piece of Android malware is discovered every 10 seconds. At this rate, the company is predicting there will be 3,500,000 new malicious Android files by the end of the year. The firm said that the risk was heightened by the fact that only a small minority of users are on the latest version of Android.
~ OK, I’m not saying anything … nooo, I can’t resist! ‘How to abandon Android and switch to iOS‘.

Defeat by Trump ‘soul crushing’ —Since Hilary Clinton’s defeat in November, John Podesta, the Democratic Party campaign chairman for Hilary Clinton, has focused on his work and granted few interviews. He sat down for one with Der Spiegel during his visit to Germany six months after the election, in which he discussed the night of his candidate’s defeat, the mistakes made on the trail and Donald Trump, who he says is “unfit and unqualified” to serve as president.

Republican Health Care bill punishes women — For many women and non-binary people, seeing the bill move onto the Senate means the state of their health – and their lives – rests in the hands of people who seem to have forgotten their humanity. It’s more than a disappointment—the deeply misogynistic implications of the bill feel like a punishment for existing as anything other than a man. Under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, it was illegal to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. But the MacArthur Amendment would allow states to repeal this restriction among others, giving them the power to choose who has to pay more for healthcare.

Second Antarctic giant ice crack — A 130km-long crack along Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf has remained stable since February, but scientists have now detected a new branch, one that’s extending about 10km from the main rift. It seems like only a matter of time before the 5000 square kilometre ice shelf plunges into the sea.

America’s obscene wealth pictured — Lauren Greenfield enjoyed a privileged background. Her parents taught at UCLA. She grew up in Venice and attended a private high school in Santa Monica. And yet she felt poor when her friends received BMWs, Porsches, and Volvos for their sixteenths and she didn’t. “Even though I had everything I needed, I still felt like I didn’t have enough,” Greenfield says. “I still wanted more and felt less-than compared to the wealthy consumption I was seeing at school.”
That desire for more, for the trappings of affluence, became an overarching theme of her career as a photographer. Greenfield has spent the past 25 years documenting people of all ages and backgrounds striving to convey great wealth.
She recently compiled 650 images in Generation Wealth, an insightful study of materialism and vanity.

The Apocalypticon ~ lone accident killer, tech housing expensive, hacking through grief, Aussie police ‘lapse’, Chump, Yahoo failure gets massive payout, NSA concession


If only accidents could kill you, how long would you live? Imagine a world in which the only possible way to die was through a sudden accident, such as a car crash, falling down the stairs, or getting struck by lighting. How long could we expect to live in such a world? According to an eye-opening simulation, a very, very, long time, indeed.

Tech made houses too expensive — “You live your comfortable lives,” read a flyer that protesters handed out to passengers, “surrounded by poverty, homelessness, and death, seemingly oblivious to everything around you, lost in the big bucks and success.” This is what protestors told tech commuters in Oakland, California. That moment of backlash was an outgrowth of what I call the New Urban Crisis: the decline of middle-class neighborhoods, the gentrification of the downtowns of certain cities, and the reshaping of America’s metropolitan regions into islands of advantage surrounded by larger swaths of disadvantage.

And high-tech cities will be lonely anyway — The prospect of cities becoming sentient is “fast becoming the new reality,” according to one paper. In Tel Aviv, everyone over the age of 13 can receive personalised data, such as traffic information, and can access free municipal Wi-Fi in 80 public zones. But in a future where robots sound and objects look increasingly sentient, we might be less inclined to seek out behaviors to abate our loneliness. Indeed, one recent study found that exposure to or interaction with anthropomorphic products partially satisfy our social needs, which means the human-like robots of tomorrow could kill our dwindling urge to be around other humans.

Sheryl Sandberg grieved when her husband died suddenly, then wanted the data — Very much in the Silicon Valley-esque spirit of problem-solving, a the Facebook Chief Operating Officer grasped for answers, she reached out to a business school professor Adam Grant, a Wharton School expert on organizational psychology. She knew he would have insight into her situation grounded in data … think Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking meets business case studies.
~ Yikes! And we’re afraid of the possibility robo-chums?

The Australian Federal Police access the metadata of a journalist — And they did this without properly complying with Australia’s new metadata retention laws, AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin has revealed. The vast majority of us would be killed in car crashes (0.011 per cent of all causes of death).

Chump aims to kill the Energy Star program — Because he’s such an idiot who impresses nobody more than himself, the 25-year-old Energy Star program appears to be targeted by Trump simply because it’s run by the federal government. It’s one of 50 EPA programs that will be axed under Trump’s budget plan, which would shrink the agency’s funding by more than 30%. Critics of Energy Star say the government should get involved in the marketplace only when absolutely necessary.

Marissa Mayer ruins company, gets US$247 million payout for her efforts — When poor people fail, they just fail. But when rich people fail, the poor pay them.  Despite Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s veritable failure to rescue the company from a pile of its own rot, and after numerous setbacks including two massive security breaches and dwindling ad revenue, Mayer is set to make about $US186 million ($247 million) as a result of the company’s sale to Verizon, new SEC documents show. This sum does not include Mayer’s salary or bonuses over the past five years, which reportedly add up to more than $US200 million …
~ This even touched New Zealand, where Spark very inadvisedly let Yahoo run its email services. 

Finally, a glimmer of good news — One controversial feature of the NSA rules has for years allowed it to vacuum up communications that aren’t “to” or “from” a foreign target, but merely “about” one, no matter who sends or receives it. Now the NSA says it will end that practice. And in doing so, it concedes a significant win to the privacy advocates who have fought it for years.

The Apocalypticon ~ Asteroid killers, aliens don’t care, NASA on ice, sinking a carrier, right-wing meme militias, VR holocaust and Olympian f-wit


NASA has been surveying our ice caps …

The ways large asteroids could kill us — Large asteroids definitely present one of the most colourful and chaotic possible apocalypses. Such an impact would cause quite a cinematic conclusion, combining a plague of wind, tsunamis, heat, and other terrors into a horrible death-fest.

Aliens don’t seem to really care about us — Well, nor do our ‘leaders’, but in the largest survey of its kind, astronomers scanned 5600 stars in search of these optical signals — and they found… absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. Here’s what that means to SETI and the ongoing hunt for alien intelligence.

NASA on the ice — Tama, a Getty photographer, spent a week last month with a NASA crew during Operation IceBridge, the agency’s campaign to measure changes in the planet’s ice sheets and glaciers. NASA spends 10 weeks each spring in the Arctic and six weeks each fall in the Antarctic when ice levels are the highest. The Arctic crew used a pair of laser altimeters to measure the elevation of the ice, and three radars to measure the snow (one of them can reach 300 feet down to bedrock). Last month, the NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced Arctic and Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest point ever in 38 years.

Sinking a US carrier — Sinking an aircraft carrier is difficult, but not impossible. The key is what it’s used for, and who it’s used against. But if you wanted to sink one, here’s what you’d have to do, and what you’d be up against.

Meme armies turning into militias — As political discourse in the US has become more polarized and contentious, so too has its symbology. Pepe the Frog and Expendables posters have given way to images of actual violence that political extremists spread and celebrate: 4chan, trading on a popular videogame meme, refers to Damigo as ‘The Falcon Punch at Berkeley.’ Much of it resembles military propaganda. The meme warriors, it seems, have become a militia.

The urgent power of remembering the holocaust in VR — Pinchas Gutter has returned to Majdanek at least a dozen times, but this trip is his final one to the onetime Nazi concentration camp. His first was one he was 11, when he was taken to Majdanek; now he’s 85 years old, and this is the last time he’ll come here to tell people what the Nazis did to his family. As he rides up to the shuttered camp in the backseat of a chauffeured sedan, he talks about why he’s told his story so many times. His trip to Majdanek, and the horrific experiences he recounts in the camp’s barracks and crematorium, are being preserved with virtual reality thanks to the USC Shoah Foundation.

Olympian f__kwit declares dystopian states like North Korea are the best at avoiding obesity … yes, thanks to mass starvation — James Cracknell is a British athlete and two-time gold medal Olympian. But now he has his sights set on politics. His pet issue? Tackling obesity. But wait until you hear what he believes are model countries for battling the obesity epidemic. [God help us.]

The Apocalypticon ~ Pruitt protection, outing inner racists, 1967 Nazis, MOAB, spork hide knife,


Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt needs protection, apparently — Pruitt wants to ensure the US doesn’t invest a single dollar in protecting humanity from climate change, nonetheless wants to use the agency’s limited funds to protect himself from other humans.
~ The EPA to become the PPA. 

AirBnB host thanks Trump for releasing her inner racist — Dyne Suh, a 25-year-old law student from Riverside, California, wanted to enjoy a relaxing Presidents’ Day weekend with her fiancé and a couple of friends in nearby Big Bear Lake. What she was not expecting was for her Airbnb host to abruptly cancel on her because of her race, which she then thanked Trump for.
~ Just as Hitler released people to enjoy their latent anti-semitism. 

1967 classroom experiment proved how easy it was for Americans to become Nazis — In 1967, Ron Jones, a 25-year-old social studies teacher in Palo Alto, California, set out to teach his 10th grade students about the events leading up to the Holocaust, but found that many of them couldn’t get over the question of how ordinary Germans had been coerced into complicity with the regime. So he decided the best way to teach students how easily people can be swayed by fearsome leaders or swept up by ideology was to demonstrate it. Which he did, in terrifyingly short order.
~ Which should really be no surprise now, right? And where are those students today?

Mother of All Bombs — The US military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on Afghanistan. Nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs, reports indicate that it killed 36 ISIS fighters with no civilian casualties. The military has now released actual footage of the strike.
~ And the real lesson is ‘Look out Russia and North Korea, because we can do all this damage even without nukes’. 

Spork hides knife — A ‘tactical spork’ designed for camping has a hidden knife that uses the spork handle as a sheath, for just US$7.
~ Grab some for the apocalypse. 

How to remain outraged without losing your mind — Yes, this is a real concern.