Tag Archives: Apocalypticon

The Apocalypticon ~ Bias, lies, Trump, China, smog, climate, stuttering, losses, support, bat Ebola, anti-gay Chechnya, robot cull, fake rain, right rises, EU, opioids beat road deaths


We’re all biased. We all cling to beliefs despite the evidence. Immersive theatre experience The Justice Syndicate aims to show why. We compare ourselves to others to evaluate our own opinions and abilities.

Lies, loyalty … Cohen admits polling schemes — President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen has now acknowledged  he schemed to rig online polls that sought to make Trump seem like a more plausible presidential candidate. [Yeah, because that was always one hell of a stretchy, and yet …] “I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.” [We all regret that of you, Michael.]
President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter. As Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, who was in charge of the project. This is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.

More stutters for Chump — A federal judge in Pennsylvania has blocked the Trump administration from implementing a rule allowing employers to decline to offer contraceptive coverage on moral or religious grounds with a nationwide injunction. The new policy cannot be reconciled with the text and purpose of the ACA — which seeks to promote access to women’s healthcare, not limit it. [So there.]
Base slips — While the longest government shutdown in US history continues, President Trump’s approval rating is down, and there are cracks showing with his base. He currently stands at 39% approve, 53% disapprove — a 7-point net change from December when his rating was 42% approve, 49% disapprove.
Surprising Republican governor introduces sweeping environmental protections — In his first week in office, Florida’s new Republican Governor Ron Desantis has made the environment and climate change a top focus. [What climate change, right Don?]

Around the world — The poles are shifting: the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. And the error is increasing all the time.
Not much left — A comprehensive new high-resolution analysis of human modification of the planet finds that just 5% of the Earth’s land surface is currently unaffected by humans, far lower than a previous estimate of 19%. 95% of the Earth’s land surface has some indication of human modification, while 84% has multiple human impacts, the study found.

Opioids beat US road toll:
 for the first time in US history, a leading cause of deaths — vehicle crashes — has been surpassed in likelihood by opioid overdoses, according to a new report on preventable deaths from the National Safety Council. Americans now have a 1 in 96 chance of dying from an opioid overdose, according to the council’s analysis of 2017 data on accidental death. The probability of dying in a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 103.
Chechen anti-gay crusade — Around 40 have been detained and another two killed in the latest crackdown on Chechnya’s LGBT community, Russian activists say.
Bat-borne Ebola virus in China — Researchers from Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School, in collaboration with scientists in China, have identified and characterised a new genus of filovirus from a Rousettus bat in China. The results confirm that the Měnglà virus is evolutionarily closely related to Ebola virus and Marburg virus.
Fake rain for the fog — In the capital of Thailand, a bout of toxic air has gotten so bad that officials are planning to literally make it rain to combat the smog.
Right rises and aims to infiltrate EU — Right-wing populist parties in Europe have been gaining strength for years. Now, they hope to use European Parliament elections in May as a springboard for gaining greater influence in the EU. Surveys indicate they may be successful.
Robot cull — The world’s first hotel “staffed by robots” has culled half of its steely eyed employees, because they’re rubbish and annoy the guests.  The hotel has multilingual ‘female’ robots on the reception desk; guests are checked in using face recognition and robot concierges carry your luggage. [Maybe they should join the Hotel Workers Union?]

In, erm, ‘good’ news — Apple’s CEO reckons we deserve online privacy. You know, coz Apple makes all its billions from charging too much rather than selling our data. Yeah, go Tim. [Anyway, I suspect this has more to do with casting aspersions on competitors.]

The Apocalypticon ~ Trump’s Facebook, hackering, Japanese thunder, dads are mutants, super malaria, bison shot, Nestlé, diesel deaths, vote


A note about The Apocalypticon: I found so many apocalyptical news stories researching for the aforementioned Futurology, probably thanks to Donald Trump more than anything, I started  following my weekend Futurology column with this, on the premise that if nightmares truly are strengthening our psyches against possible disasters, this might serve similarly. That said, I try and end on a positive note (I’ve always liked D, myself). 

Thanks to the terrifying wonders of social media, President Trump has launched targeted digital ads on Facebook, , only on a much larger scale than he did. Most seem to be offering conflicting versions of his plans for the border wall. Facebook is attempting to regulate political ads, apparently – yeah right, coz if Zuckerberg does run for president, don’t expect that to continue! But hey, it’ not all bad – Facebook plans to read our thoughts one day. I thought it was already. I guess that’s what you get with a CEO whose name means’Sugar Mountain’.

Amazon knows if you’re trying to make a bomb. Amazon’s listings for ingredients commonly used in DIY bombs are often accompanied by ‘frequently bought together’ suggestions for the exact chemicals necessary to turn relatively harmless substances into viable weapons.

In other software/wetware news, if you’re a gamer who installed the Steam Inventory Helper on your PC, you may want to uninstall it as soon as possible. Recent reports suggest this extension used to buy and sell digital goods on Steam is spying on its users. [Ha ha, I have a Mac.] Also, the Feds in the US are ditching Kapersky ‘security tools‘ citing the company’s potential ties to the Russian government.

Thunderous Japanese particle accelerator — Thunderclouds rolled into the Japanese beach town of Uchinada early one December morning in 2015. The scientists expected the storms; they’d staked out the location specifically for studying something normally only seen by satellites. Sometime after 5am, a flash of lightning struck a wind turbine. And along came a more perplexing weather phenomenon, too: The thunderstorm turned into a particle accelerator and blasted gamma radiation at the ground.

Dads are mutants — Children inherit four times as many new mutations from their fathers than their mothers, according to research that suggests faults in the men’s DNA are a driver for rare childhood diseases. Bugger.

Nestlé makes millions bottling free water — But you knew this, right? This is, after all, the company that invested heavily in stopping third world mum’s breastfeeding so they’d buy its milk powder. Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, has been bottling water since 1843 and has grown into the largest seller of bottled water. But a detailed report on Bloomberg uncovers the company’s operation in Michigan, revealing that Nestle has come to dominate in the industry in part by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws [LIKE NEW ZEALAND!]. It makes billions selling a product for which it pays close to nothing.
[Which makes Nestlé and ilk (Coca-Cola, for example) clever and the New Zealand government really, really stupid. Cows freely shit in lots of our NZ water, and what’s left pure-ish we virtually give away to overseas corporations to sell. Duh!]

Diesel cars and trucks kill 5000 a year in Europe — Emissions from diesel cars rigged to appear eco-friendly may be responsible for 5000 air pollution deaths per year in Europe alone, according to a study. The numbers are in line with previous assessments of deaths due to the so-called Dieselgate scandal, which erupted when carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on vehicle emissions tests. [Imagine what the figures would be in China and India.]
But hey, now you can build virtual roads in what must be a truly maddening game.

Super-malaria — A newly-mutated strain of drug-resistant malaria has spread into Vietnam, complicating efforts to contain the the mosquito-borne virus in Southeast Asia and potentially posing a global threat.

First wild bison appears in Germany in 250 years, and is promptly shot dead — seriously! The World Wildlife Fund will be pursuing charges against a local official who, upon receiving a report of the first sighting of a wild bison in Germany in over 250 years, promptly ordered hunters to shoot the animal dead.

And the good news? Ah … I hope you voted. You get a one-in-roughly-four-million chance to affect the future every three years, so you may as well use it.

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 ~ 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 ~ 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 ~ crowd killdozer, poison back, prep for space war, online self-defence, volcano no longer dormant


Crowd control ‘killdozer’ — Slovenian company Bozena has created an all-new RIOT system, a crowd-control killdozer for all your protest-suppressing needs. The vehicle’s shield has launching ports designed for guns or other projectile launchers and the trailer is capable of displacing the water/foam or its mixtures (available additives: pepper or painting substances) under the high pressure into the distance of several dozen meters. Yay.

Chumpian overturns pesticide ban  — Government scientists at the EPA concluded that a pesticide sprayed on crops was toxic. A few months later, Scott Pruitt comes into the agency as Trump’s appointee, looks at the agency’s petition to ban the substance, and denies it. He decided that, although the substance is proven to be poisonous, he’d rather keep spraying crops with it.
America, America …

The US ‘should’ prepare for a space war — Coz, well, why the hell not? Recently, two US military officials said that America should be getting ready for a war in space. Their advice was seemingly bolstered by a Hill article penned by two US national security experts this week, which reminded Americans that North Korea could in theory use a satellite weapon to send an electromagnetic pulse over the United States, triggering widespread blackouts and ultimately, societal collapse.
~ Should we be giving them credit for imagination?

Feeling assailed? You can defend yourself online — Congress has just dismantled a set of Obama-era internet privacy rules. In effect, the Republicans just gave big telecom companies unfettered access to people’s browsing history and will even let ISPs sell that data for profit. Here’s how to keep your data from snooping ISPs, and how not to protect your privacy online.

Volcano erupts after centuries of dormancy — Just in case this has all been too cheerful for all you Aucklanders, who famously live in a city dotted with dozens of inactive volcanoes, one in Russia just erupted after at least 250 years of not doing anything. Sorry.

The Apocalypticon ~ Standing up to Trump, hiding and how, Counter Abuse, mass spying, Twitter twits


Trump and the rise of bigots all over the world has led to so much doom news in tech circles, I thought I’d collate it sometimes … enjoy! Or at least shudder.

Trump tweeted that Swedes were being massacred ...
Trump tweeted that Swedes were being massacred …

Scientists are standing up to Trump because they’ve always stood up to bullshit — There’s a pervasive idea that science is somehow exempt from the ugly political world in which the rest of us wallow. But even a perfunctory look at the history of American science shows that this hasn’t always been the case, and the circumstances that pushed scientists into the public sphere in the past aren’t that different from those scientists are facing today.

Hiding from the law is pretty much impossible — A new TV series has got people talking about the incredible depth of surveillance now available to law enforcers – and, presumably, to clever hackers.

How to delete your online presence — This may be a great time to completely eradicate yourself from social media. All of these online services let you scrub out your accounts if you want a cleaner, leaner life online. Even better, plenty of them let you export your data for safekeeping before you do. So you can always remember that time The Rock answered your desperate tweets or your roommate plastered your Facebook wall with photos of your dog.
Here’s how you can delete, and back up, accounts from most major social media services.

Google offshoot Jigsaw and Google’s Counter Abuse Technology Team — This group recently publicly released code for anti-harassment tools that have been honed for more than a year so they can hopefully be implemented around the web. Military bases could use smart city technology to improve their safety and security. And former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter gave WIRED a glimpse of the future of warfare.

Mass surveillance isn’t working — The track record of the collection programs Edward Snowden revealed provides little evidence that massive surveillance will help us identify future terrorist attacks or mitigate these new risks. American spies’ allegiance to massive surveillance is based on faith, not track record. The Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013 illustrates how broad proactive surveillance is no panacea against attacks. The NSA was conducting its massive spying at the time, and the attacks happened anyway.

Trump hate tweets — The US ‘president’ sank Boeing shares with a single tweet and dissed Nordstrom for dropping his daughter’s brand, inspiring a Nordstrom boycott. Cozy up too closely to the commander-in-chief, on the other hand, and you might find your company facing a stinging backlash from the majority of Americans who oppose him (just ask Uber CEO Travis Kalanick).
And just in case you didn’t think all this Twitter crap was really crazy