Tag Archives: data wars

The Apocalypticon ~ Stupidity unbound, climate costs, corruption and data wars


Stupidity unbound — Hundreds of students and faculty at two universities in Los Angeles have been asked to stay home unless they can prove they’ve been vaccinated against measles.
Car drivers think bike riders ‘subhuman’ — Researchers have an explanation for why many drivers act aggressively toward cyclists: they are actually dehumanising people who ride bikes, according to an April study by Australian researchers in the journal Transportation Research. And this dehumanisation – the belief that a group of people are less than human – correlates to drivers’ self-reported aggressive behaviour. [I ride a bike. Newsflash: like most bike riders, I also drive a car. The only cyclists I find annoying are those flocking cyclists in lycra.]
Apple CEO Tim Cook has called for more government regulation on the technology industry in order to protect privacy in an interview at the TIME 100 Summit in New York. [Yeah, right, how about regulating your profits then?]
Sitting bull — Time spent watching TV and videos has remained consistently high in the United States over the past 15 years, but time sitting at a computer has increased dramatically, new research finds.
Twitter can’t ban White Supemacists because this would also rule out Republicans — A Twitter employee who works on machine learning believes that a proactive, algorithmic solution to white supremacy would also catch Republican politicians. [Is anyone surprised?]
But apparently the Sri Lankan bombers were ‘smart‘ — They included a pair of brothers from a wealthy, upper-class family; a man with a law degree; and another who studied in the United Kingdom and did postgraduate work in Australia before coming home to settle down in his native Sri Lanka.

People are strange — The Japanese not having sex: Japan is home to one of the fastest aging populations in the world, exacerbated by a persistently low birth rate. As it turns out, these social changes can be explained by the lack of heterosexual intercourse among Japanese adults, say scientists led by Dr Peter Ueda at the University of Tokyo, Japan.
US retirees are blowing their savings on their kids — Financial independence, once a hallmark of adulthood, has gone by the wayside as adult children increasingly depend on their parents to help them cover the cost of rent, student loans, health insurance and more. But parents’ desire to give their children a financial assist could be misguided, and will backfire in the long run. [This is what you get when you collapse the middle class so the super rich can get super richer.]

Melting permafrost in Arctic will have $70 trillion climate impact — The release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost will accelerate global warming and add up to US$70tn (£54tn) to the world’s climate bill, according to the most advanced study yet of the economic consequences of a melting Arctic.
Virgin Islands hurricane mental health impacts — More than a year and a half after two major hurricanes struck the US Virgin Islands, the effects of the storms are still obvious.  But the storms had another, less visible impact: on the mental health of island residents.

Data wars and corruption — The New York State attorney general’s office plans to open an investigation into Facebook’s unauthorised collection of more than 1.5 million users’ email address books.
A total of 50 malicious apps have managed to bypass Google’s security checks and land on the Google Play store, leading to millions of installs on Android devices.
It was only last week that researchers from Check Point uncovered a total of six apps laden with the PreAMo ad fraud malware on Google Play which had been installed 90 million times.
Companies that make tax preparation software, like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, would rather you didn’t know you can file for free. Intuit and other tax software companies have spent millions lobbying to make sure that the IRS doesn’t offer its own tax preparation and filing service. In exchange, the companies have entered into an agreement with the IRS to offer a Free File product to most Americans — but good luck finding it.
Facial scans replacing boarding passes — Homeland Security in the US said it plans to scan the faces of over 97%” of departing international passengers by 2023. According to Buzzfeed, 17 US airports are currently part of the program.

Good news? A little. A major pharmaceutical distribution company and two of its former executives are facing criminal charges for their roles in advancing the nation’s opioid crisis and profiting from it.

The Apocalypticon ~ That wall, idiots and sticks, measles, Spanish, 3D gun, data wars, threats to life, processed food, greener China


The wall, and blocks — Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, the president of the US can declare an emergency for just about anything. As President Trump has considered using that authority to circumvent Congress and build a wall along the Southern border, that near-unlimited presidential power has gotten a lot of attention. Lots of presidents have used emergency powers in the past for, you know, emergencies. Trump’s declaration is categorically different, since the president is using his power to fund a border wall far bigger and more expensive than Congress was willing to pay for. [This is what you get for giving a big idiot a big stick.]
More bricks in the wall — Two women who were detained and asked to show identification after speaking Spanish in a convenience store in Montana are suing US Customs and Border Protection, saying the CBP agent violated their constitutional rights when he detained them and asked to see their identification.  [This is what you get for giving a little idiot any kind of stick.]
Talking about idiots and sticks — Amid a measles outbreak in Washington state that officials have confirmed has spread to at least 51 people and suspect to have spread to over a dozen others, hundreds of people showed up to a rally on Friday to demand the right to keep exposing their kids to the possibility of contracting easily prevented, potentially fatal illnesses.
3D gun printer had a hit-list of lawmakers — A Dallas man was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday after the authorities caught him with a partially 3-D-printed rifle and what federal prosecutors described as a hit list of lawmakers in his backpack.
Fox News doesn’t want anti-Nazi content on its channel — Fox News has refused to air an ad for the short documentary film A Night at the Garden.
The 7-minute movie, which was recently nominated for an Academy Award, explores the terrifying day on February 20, 1939 when thousands of American Nazis held a rally at Madison Square Garden in New York. [That sick feeling when you see your grandfather giving a Sieg Heil … no, not me, I’m not American.]
Sexual assaults still rising at US military academies — Congress is keeping watch and the military has introduced prevention programs. Yet sexual assaults at military service academies keep rising. The leaders of those academies got an earful when they testified before a House Armed Services subcommittee.

Threats to life: US teens not sleeping or exercising — That is the unhealthy lifestyle of nearly all US high school students, new research finds.
Nanoparticals cause blood vessel leaks — A research group in Singapore has found that nanoparticles can cause blood vessels to become ‘leaky,’ which could help cancer spread in the body.
Yes, processed food shortens lives — A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine tracked diet and health over eight years in more than 44,000 French men and women. Their average age was 58 at the start. About 29% of their energy intake was ultraprocessed foods including instant noodles, soups, breakfast cereals, energy bars and drinks, chicken nuggets and many other ready-made meals and packaged snacks. They discovered an increase in early death.
Post-surgery more lethal than HIVm tuberculosis and malaria combined — About 4.2 million people worldwide die every year within 30 days of surgery. That’s more than from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Data wars — Older satnavs and such devices won’t be able to use America’s Global Positioning System properly after April 6 unless they’ve been suitably updated or designed to handle a looming epoch rollover.
Photo-sharing service 500px announced it was the victim of a hack back in July 2018 — Personal data was exposed for all the roughly 14.8 million accounts that existed at the time.
Swiss invites hackers to sort eVoting — The Swiss government is offering bug bounties of up to CHF 50,000 (around $50,000) to anyone who can expose vulnerabilities in its internet-based e-voting system in a test later this month.

In good news — India and China are actually managing to get [literally] greener. I know, surprising, right?

The Apocalypticon ~ World fear, climate of fear, data wars, quaking and shaking, magic soil


At year’s end, global health numbers offer reason for both hope and despair — There is one strong positive note: an overriding public health finding is that people are living longer.
But then there are the million-plus cases of cholera in Yemen — deemed “a hideous milestone for the 21st century” by the International Committee of the Red Cross. And there’s lots more to mourn. For example, 8.6 million people died from no, or poor, health care.
Japan is withdrawing from an international group that bans commercial whaling — Japan will resume commercial hunts for the first time in 30 years next July. Japan will leave the International Whaling Commission, which put a moratorium on commercial whaling in the 1980s.
More US law enforcement officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2018 than last year. This fact drove a 12% overall increase in the number of officers who died on the job, according to preliminary data from The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
12 sickened by stem cell treatments — A recent report from the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores the health risks stem cell procedures can have. An outbreak linked to stem cell injections contaminated with bacteria sickened at least 12 people this year.
Higher education is supposed to be the ticket to employment — But in some US Bay Area counties, workers with high school diploma have lower unemployment rates than those with bachelor’s degrees or higher.
Bottled water slakes thirst, creates massive problems — A consumer backlash against disposable plastic plus new government mandates and bans in places such as zoos and department stores have the world’s biggest bottled-water makers scrambling to find alternatives. [Finally!]
2018 was the year robots started to take over service jobs — “We face the prospect of major upheaval in the last dependable pool of jobs we’ve got.”

Data wars — Zuckerberg claims ‘we’ve changed’. In his year-end post, Zuckerberg was optimistic, if a little defensive. He ticked off changes the company’s made – or, as he put it, “We’ve fundamentally altered our DNA” – to focus more on handling the bad stuff that happens on Facebook. [To which I respond ‘bullshit!’ I am about to purge Facebook and Instagram fundamentally from all my systems.]
This follows the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg’s testimony on Capitol Hill, the massive hack affecting 29 million people, the bombshell report from The New York Times questioning both Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg’s leadership … in just a short couple of years, Zuckerberg has gone from possible presidential contender to a parody on SNL. [Also, why wasn’t the ‘DNA altered’ after Cambridge?]
The New York Times has already questioned this so-called’DNA altering’. Apparently, Facebook has a serious content moderation problem.
Google caves to Turkish pressure, condemns a culture to oblivion — Google has removed a map outlining the geographical extent of the Greater Kurdistan after the Turkish state asked it to do so, a simple inquiry on the Internet giant’s search engine from Wednesday on can show. “Unavailable. This map is no longer available due to a violation of our Terms of Service and/or policies,” a note on the page that the map was previously on read. Google did not provide further details on how the Kurdistan map violated its rules. [Yeah, you suck too, Google.]
LinkedIn too — Co-founder Reid Hoffman has a lot to apologise for, but now he’s specifically saying he’s sorry for funding a political experiment gone horribly awry.
The New York Times revealed that a research group with ties to the Democrat Party ran an experimental campaign using social media tactics inspired by Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Chinese hackers target cutting-edge US firms — A Justice Department poster shows two Chinese citizens suspected of carrying out an extensive hacking campaign directed at dozens of US tech companies. US law enforcement says such cases are on the rise as China seeks to become a world leader in advanced technologies by 2025.
To understand China’s espionage goals, US officials say, just look at the ambitious aims the country set out in the plan ‘Made in China 2025.’

People start to mobilise for climate action — More than 1.8 million people worldwide have signed a petition from environmental groups to sue the French government for failing to take sufficient action on the matter. These groups, which include Greenpeace France and Oxfam France, are calling it the case of the century.
In 2017, France consumed 4.5% more fossil fuels than the scheduled target the French government had set out when it launched its energy transition act in 2015 to prevent further global warming.
Sea turtles turning female — A new study shows that climate change may cause most sea turtles to be born female. The future of sea turtles depends on the coexistence of dudes and gals, so this is not cool at all.
Under Trump, more protections removed — In another proposed reversal of an Obama-era standard, the Environmental Protection Agency Friday said limiting mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants is not cost-effective and should not be considered “appropriate and necessary.”
US drought map — Crippling drought this year has caused more than $1 billion in damage in the US. Anyone affected by the drought or trying to manage it has turned to a once-obscure map that has become key to understanding what’s happening: the US Drought Monitor.
Londoners confronted with melting Greenland ice — Any Londoners walking past their city’s famous Tate Modern art gallery this month found it difficult not to stop and stare at a new addition to its courtyard: huge chunks of melting ice, harvested from the shores of Greenland.
Between 2011 and 2014, Greenland lost a trillion tons of ice. In July 2012, almost the entire surface of the ice sheet was melting, an event that was simultaneously unprecedented in the satellite era and a bellwether for what appears to be the new normal.

Quaking, erupting and shaking — An overnight earthquake, triggered by Italy’s Mount Etna eruption two days before, caused injuries and damage in Eastern Sicily. The volcano has been spewing ash and lava has flowed down its slopes since it began erupting on Christmas Eve.
The entire southwest flank of Indonesia’s Anak Krakatau volcano is missing The erupting volcano triggered a massive landslide on December 22nd which, in turn, generated a tsunami that killed over 420 people.

Sigh. Is there any good news? This is promising: Scientists in China have developed modified clay to prevent dangerous algal blooms, a boon for Chile’s aquaculture industry. Algal blooms can take a severe toll on the health of marine organisms as their sudden rapid growth can deplete oxygen and nutrients in water bodies. If left unchecked, the vast amounts of algae can cause water to become discoloured, resulting in what is known as a ‘red tide.’