Tag Archives: some good news

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Apocalypticon ~ Diseases, fragility of China, spawned in the USA, around the world, and some good news


One of the strangest things that can sicken us is a rogue misfolded protein that destroys the brain — But Prion is even scarier than we knew. Researchers were able to find the prions responsible for sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD), the most common prion disease in people, seeded everywhere in the eyes of 11 patients affected by it.
Rat hepatitis in humans — A 70-year-old Hong Kong woman has contracted the rat-specific version of Hepatitis E, signifying only the second time the disease has been documented in humans. Health officials in China are now scrambling to understand the implications of this disturbing new development.
Don’t eat the Romaine! The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out an unusually strong statement telling Americans to toss any romaine lettuce in any form: whole, chopped, pre-bagged into Caesar salads, combined into spring mix, and so on. The warning covered not just homes but retailers and restaurants, and came with a recommendation to empty any fridge where romaine has been stored, and wash it out with soap and warm water.

Marxists now being persecuted in China — Young people who belong to Marxist groups have recently become the unlikely targets of a state crackdown due to their zeal to help educate and mobilise China’s working class to fight for their rights. [OMG that’s so crazy!]
“As Communists, we should incorporate Marxist classics and principles into our lifestyle and treat Marxism as a spiritual pursuit,” President Xi Jinping said at an event celebrating the bicentennial of Marx’s birth in May … But in August, police arrested more than 50 student activists, many of them members of college Marxist groups.
China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality —  Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalised ratings for each resident.
Former FBI guy advocates retaliatory cyber attacks against China — Louis Freeh, who ran the FBI for almost eight years until 2001, said the threat of criminal charges or jail time would do little to prevent state-sponsored hackers from continuing to steal valuable intellectual property. He reckons targeted cyber attacks and a strong deterrence capability are the most effective way of preventing China and other countries continuing to steal Australian commercial secrets.
The US government is reportedly trying to persuade its foreign allies’ wireless and internet providers to avoid Huawei equipment — Officials have spoken to their counterparts and telecom bosses in Germany, Italy, Japan and other friendly countries where the Chinese company’s equipment is already in use.

Spawned in the USA — James Comey, the former head of the FBI who was fired by President Trump, says he will push back on a subpoena to appear in a closed-door session before the House Judiciary Committee unless he is allowed to testify publicly. “I’m still happy to sit in the light and answer all questions,” Comey tweeted. “But I will resist a ‘closed door’ thing because I’ve seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion.”
Americans blame social networks — A new survey from Axios finds that a majority of Americans don’t think social networks are good for the world. [But hey, Facebook delivered the really really best president ever!]
Creepy Facebook patent — A recently published Facebook patent application imagines an unnerving way to use your data. The company filed for a patent that explores piecing together information about a user’s entire household based on the pictures they upload, presumably for targeted advertising. And yes, Instagram photos were also cited in the filing. [I stopped using Instagram  a few weeks back, no regrets.]
US Ground Zero for climate change — The northernmost city in the US continues to be ground zero for the impacts of climate change. As sunlight fades from the Arctic, sea ice began to form this week around Utqiaġvik, an Iñupiat whaling community located on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. And that’s not right, as the sea should have been covered in ice weeks ago.
Climate change is already causing more frequent and severe weather across the US, according to a Federal report — and the country is poised to suffer massive damage to infrastructure, ecosystems, health and the economy if global warming is allowed to continue, according to the most comprehensive federal climate report to date. [Oh, wait, Trump can’t here is he still has his head in the sand.]
An emerging, deeply weird conspiracy theory for the Californian fires — This holds that those fires aren’t caused by wind patterns, brutally dry conditions, the worsening effects of climate change, or possible downed power lines, but by a sinister scheme directed by nefarious elements within the government. [Of course! Except the ‘nefarious element’ is the government, starting at the top.]
Rains coming to damp the fires … and may cause another disaster — In what may be the first bit of good news in a while for Northern California, rain could be on the way by the end of this week. It could put the kibosh on the Camp Fire, ending one chapter of the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history.
Unfortunately it won’t be all good news as the rain could trigger mudslides, hamper search and rescue operations, and make the lives of thousands who are homeless miserable.

Around the world — Of course, Trump famously said the Calfornian fires were caused by not raking between trees. So Finns have been making fun of him ever since.
Russian hackers exploit deadly plane crash to go phishing — Security firm Palo Alto Networks has issued a new warning about phishing attacks linked to APT 28, the elite Russian hacking group tied to the 2016 election interference in the United States. The document, sent to myriad targets in North America, Europe, as well as a former Soviet state, was designed to capture the attention of those interested in the Lion Air 737 MAX airline crash in late October, which killed all 189 aboard.
North Korean state media announced the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, recently oversaw tests of a “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon.” The new report is extremely light on details, but it’s a reminder that very little has actually changed in the US-North Korea relationship since US president Donald Trump took power. Both countries have nuclear weapons and both are on a hair trigger as they develop new capabilities. [Or have they just figured out how to make rifles out of plastic?]
Sperm whale dies full of plastic cups — A dead whale floated ashore in eastern Indonesia with its stomach full of plastic junk, including 115 plastic cups and two pairs of flip-flops. World Wildlife Fund researchers found roughly 6kg of plastic in the 9.45m long sperm whale, reports the Associated Press. [Presumably the two people wearing the flip-flops didn’t make it.]
Dutch government finds Microsoft collected telemetry data — Microsoft has been accused of breaking EU’s GDPR law by harvesting information through Office 365 and sending it to US servers. The discovery was made by the Dutch government.

And in good news … A US federal judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit against neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer alleging it led a “terror campaign” against a Jewish real estate agent, Tanya Gersh, and the Southern Poverty Law Center tells the New York Times it expects the civil case to now proceed to a trial.
The lawsuit accuses the Daily Stormer and its founder, racist troll Andrew Anglin, of mounting a coordinated harassment campaign against Gersh that eventually resulted in her family receiving over 700 messages including death threats and references to the Holocaust.
And my favourite: Siri pulls up image of an actual dick when asked about Trump — The apparent glitch was reported on Thursday by the Verge, which noted that the error may be the result of some turkey day trickster either editing Trump’s Wikipedia page or attempting to game an algorithm associated with the image Siri pulls up automatically.