Tag Archives: Hurricane Irma

The Apocalypticon ~ It’s all about phones, data breaches, Facebook hate, maps, move more, sheltering with Kristen Bell


Trump administration sued over phone searches at US borders — The Trump administration has engaged in an unconstitutional practice of searching without a warrant the phones and laptops of Americans who are stopped at the border, a lawsuit filed last week alleged. From a report:Ten US citizens and one lawful permanent resident sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, saying the searches and prolonged confiscation of their electronic devices violate privacy and free speech protections of the US Constitution. DHS could not be immediately reached for comment. The lawsuit comes as the number of searches of electronic devices has surged in recent years, alarming civil rights advocates. One approach is to encrypt your phone data, of course, and it’s not that hard (but proceed cautiously as I have heard of people locking themselves out of their own devices irretrievably).
And what do do about ‘mega-breaches‘ like the Equifax debacle? This put 143 million US consumers’ personal data at risk, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and even some drivers license and credit card numbers. For safer email, maybe the only answer is to write text-only messages.

Facebook enabled hard of Jews — ProPublica is reporting that Facebook “enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater,’ ‘How to burn jews,’ or, ‘History of why jews ruin the world.'” The organization even went so far as to test these ad categories by paying $30 to target those groups with three “promoted posts” – in which a ProPublica article or post was displayed in their news feeds. Facebook reportedly approved all three ads within 15 minutes.

Mapping errors — the mountains of Kong form a magnificent, impassable mountain range in West Africa. Luckily it’s not real. But that didn’t stop 19th-century writers from waxing poetic about its formidable, snow-capped peaks, or illustrious cartographers from including it in historical maps. Old maps, though, also show how humans have wrecked the Florida reefs.

Aliens might save us yet — A fascinating new paper theorises that alien civilizations could reshape their homeworlds in predictable and potentially detectable ways like we have. The authors are proposing a new classification scheme that measures the degree to which planets been modified by intelligent hosts.

Spilled salmon — Last month, a pen in Washington State holding hundreds of thousands of fish broke, sending swarms of silver Atlantic salmon swimming to the south and north. As you’re no doubt aware, Washington State is not on the Atlantic. Now, these invasive fish have been reported as far as 240km away in Canada.

An alarming study indicates why some bacteria is more resistant to antibiotics in space — To learn more about why some germs seem harder to kill in near-weightless conditions, scientists aboard the ISS recently doused a batch of bacteria with antibiotics – an experiment which resulted in a series of startling physical changes that may be helping the bacteria to survive and thrive in space.

But wait, this is moving! Well, it should be. Moving your body at least every half hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed. The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death. So t’s relatively easy for most of us to stave that off.

And finally, if that’s not good enough news, actor Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Scream 4,  FrozenBad Moms etc) songs from Frozen to people sheltering from Hurricane Irma in Orlando. Among those sheltering was actor Kristen Bell, who helped cheer up gathered Floridians by performing Frozen hits at a shelter.
Cool, or what?

The Apocalypticon ~ Data, security, storms, bombs … and saving us from climate change


New Zealand’s Neoliberal drift — In New Zealand, neoliberal reforms have widened inequality and undermined the country’s self-image as an egalitarian paradise. So while Bill English keeps crowing about New Zealand’s ‘rock star economy’, why are there more homeless, more beggars, more hungry kids? I agree with the above blog’s assertions. People say you can’t sum up neoloberalism, as it covers many things, but I have made a study of it and feel I can: the basic core of neoliberalism is allowing markets to solve all issues including cultural and social. Which is as patently stupid as it appears at first glance. It also involves ‘othering’ and victimising those who can’t progress competitively and therefore shares similarities with classic Nazism. Remember that? World War Two responsible for 40-50 million deaths? The Holocaust?
Yeah. 

Data — 143 million Americans may have had their Social Security Numbers stolen (along with other sensitive personal information), so security experts are pressing for a fundamental reassessment in how, and why, we identify ourselves. Meanwhile, a Chinese man has been given a nine-month jail sentence for helping people evade government controls on where they can go online.

Security — And Russian election hacking in the US is the story that keeps on growing.  A lot of registered voters in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Arizona didn’t even get to vote on election day last year because their names weren’t in the electronic poll books because, theoretically, Russian hackers had infiltrated the servers of VR Systems, a company that provides the software for polling equipment. However, anonymous sources from the intelligence community told the New York Times that at least two other election software companies were also hacked. And if you’re worried about that pro-Russian shock-gadfly Julian Assange’s Wikileaks site getting hacked, that was a DNS reroute.

Storms — While the massive hurricane Irma is about to hit Florida after laying waste through the Caribbean, Houstonians in Texas were left without shelter and facing the daunting task of rebuilding their lives. The staggering damage includes 40,000 homes lost, but another number also deserves close scrutiny: the flooding destroyed as many as a million cars in the Houston metro area. A job for FEMA, which over the last seven decades has evolved from building a top-secret series of bunkers designed to protect US officials in case of a nuclear attack to a sprawling bureaucratic agency tasked with mobilizing help in disasters.
And while it’s storming’ here on Earth, it’s also storming’ out in space. The Space Weather Prediction Center has upgraded a geomagnetic storm watch for September 6 and 7 to a level only occasionally seen, but scientists say it’s nothing to be too alarmed about – at least we’re getting some cool atmospheric aurora effects.

Bombs —  Sensors in South Korea, China, and the US indicated that whatever the Hermit Kingdom exploded underground recently was more powerful than the atomic weapons the US used during World War II—a benchmark North Korea had not definitively topped before. But hoorah! Because America has way more powerful bombs still.
Large sections of central Frankfurt, Germany were evacuated in preparation for authorities to defuse a World War II-era, 1.4-ton ‘Blockbuster’ HC 4000 air mine. At least 60,000 people were asked to leave the area while the bomb defusal operation proceeds. The bomb was successfully defused, but still needs to be removed from the area with utmost caution. Now there’s a perfect task for a driverless truck!

Climate change — According to Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, we’re barely staving off climate disaster. Your Tesla might be cool, but it’s not helping much. The pessimistic professor has been studying sea icefor nearly 50 years. “Reducing our emissions is not going to be enough to prevent catastrophic consequences,” he says. In his scorching new book, A Farewell to Ice, Wadhams presents some radical, and sometimes theoretical, ways to save civilisation. [‘Head in the sand’ isn’t one of them.]
The terrible weather isn’t our only worry. Research published by Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism group, has revealed that microplastics have contaminated high proportions of tap drinking water and bottled water. Samples from the United States tested positive in 94% of instances, while Europe’s contamination averages around 72%. Tests were undertaken at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, with lead researcher Dr Anne Marie Mahon noting the risk of plastics carrying bacteria.
But at least you’re probably not gluten intolerant. [I ways like to end with some good news.]