Tag Archives: The world

The Apocalypticon ~ the info wars, helium leak iPhones, the world, new Titanic, the smog of complacency, animal massacres, changed planet, ice calving, transgender discrimination


It’s time, tech: thousands of Google employees around the world walked out of their offices. This was to protest Google’s mishandling of sexual harassment and assault cases, in what is likely the largest collective demonstration among technology workers.
Facebook and the Brazilian demagogue — The scandal-mired social media giant that has faced enormous criticism for its role in the spread of online propaganda and fake news across the globe, has a War Room it wants everyone to know is tackling that issue head-on. Facebook has touted the War Room’s efforts to clean up a torrent of hoaxes and misinformation spreading across Brazil on Facebook subsidiary and encrypted chat service WhatsApp before the country’s October 28 runoff election. But when the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonar, who has pledged support for Brazil’s two-decade military dictatorship, attacked minorities and LGBTQ people, backed torture and reportedly plans to decimate the Amazon rainforest, won those elections with 55.2% of the vote, it looked an awful lot like one key element of his victory was exactly the kind of stuff the War Room was supposedly intended to fight, especially on WhatsApp.
81,000 Facebook accounts hacked — Hackers appear to have compromised and published private messages from at least 81,000 Facebook users’ accounts – but that’s just according to that pillar of fake news, the BBC
Facebook’s new political ad transparency tools allowed Business Insider to run adverts as being “paid for” by Cambridge Analytica — Yes, CA was the political consultancy that dragged Facebook into a major data scandal. The investigation demonstrates that political advertising on Facebook is still open to manipulation by bad actors, despite Facebook’s ‘greater efforts’ at transparency. [Yep, someone saw right through that one. Or should that be ‘sawed’?]
But clearly, Facebook still has its uses — The United States government is accelerating efforts to monitor social media to preempt major anti-government protests in the US, according to scientific research, official government documents, and patent filings reviewed by Motherboard.
More violent than Stuxnet — Iranian infrastructure and strategic networks have come under attack in the last few days by a computer virus similar to Stuxnet but “more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated,” and Israeli officials are refusing to discuss what role, if any, they may have had in the operation.
But some problems are much more basic in origin — A US government network was infected with malware thanks to one employee’s “extensive history” of watching porn on his work computer, investigators found. The audit, carried out by the US Department of the Interior’s inspector general, found that a US Geological Survey (USGS) network at the EROS Center, a satellite imaging facility in South Dakota, was infected after an unnamed employee visited thousands of porn pages that contained malware. This downloaded to his laptop and “exploited the USGS’ network.”
How to coordinate a hate attack: use Gab — Gab and its founder Andrew Torba prefer to pitch the site as a free-speech hub for everyone, but in reality Gab is mostly well known as a haven for neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other extremists who have used it as a far-right echo chamber (in many cases after being they themselves were removed from mainstream platforms). But after the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, one of its primary fundraising methods has been cut off: PayPal confirmed it had terminated Gab’s account in the wake of the attack.

Helium leak disables multiple hospital iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads — Eric Woolridge, a system administrator at Morris Hospital in Illinois, said in a detailed post on the r/sysadmin subreddit that helium was to blame for many malfunctioning iDevices. Android phones were ‘just fine’…

Yes, it had to happen — Trump. He’s bellicose, angry, aggressive, a bully … and yet, he’s seemingly pissing his pants over some desperate refugees making their way slowly towards the US on foot. The US military has been ordered to send approximately 5000 troops to the US-Mexico border to counter the ‘threat’ of the caravan. [He’s depicting it as an ‘invasion! Pathetic!]
While we’re out in the world — Supporting Indonesia’s 1975 invasion, dodgy oil and gas deals, corporate espionage and trying a whistle blower in a secret court are just a few things that The Juice Media shines a big uncomfortable spotlight on in this video. Brutal!
Titanic II, a replica of the original Titanic, will make its first voyage in 2022 — It will have room for 2400 passengers and 900 crew members and have the same cabin layout and decor as the original legendary ocean liner. The $500 million ship, to be built in China, is set to make its maiden voyage from Dubai to Southhampton, UK in 2022. [And because it will be unsinkable II, they can save money on lifeboats.]
Russians mark Stalin’s purge victims outside Moscow security headquarters — Nelli Tachko, 93, was one of hundreds of Muscovites who waited for hours in frigid temperatures Monday to take part in an annual tradition in which anybody who wants to can read the name, age, profession and date of execution of a victim of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s Great Terror eight decades ago. [This must warm Putin’s heart.]

Disease, plague and pestilence — Last year’s flu season in the US was one of the worst ones seen in decades. Nearly 80,000 flu-related deaths and the highest hospitalisation rate for the virus in modern history. But new estimations from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are presenting a clearer idea of just how bad last year’s flu season really was.
Yellow Fever in New Orleans — At least this one was historic. Some say New Orleans is haunted because of witches; others say it’s haunted by vampires, or ghosts, or all those swamps. But if you were around between 1817 and 1905, you might say the city was haunted by death. And that death, in large part, was caused by yellow fever.
Yellow fever was fatal. It was gruesome. And in epidemic years, during the months between July and October, it could wipe out 10% of the city’s population. Eventually, it earned New Orleans the nickname ‘Necropolis’: the city of the dead.
Moving to the US might make you fat — Moving to the US can seriously mess with immigrants’ microbiomes, according to a new study that tracked the digestive health of refugees coming to Minnesota from Southeast Asia. The study found new migrants almost immediately begin losing some of their native microbes, including strains that help them break down and glean nutrients. This has been tied to obesity.
Teeth in Georgia, USA walls — It’s not unusual for construction workers to find historical objects inside of walls. But the team renovating the TB Converse Building in Valdosta, Georgia, were caught off guard when they found an estimated 1000 teeth buried in a second-floor wall. The weirdest thing is that the same thing has happened in two other Georgia towns.

The environment — Today, more than 77% of land on earth, excluding Antarctica, has been modified by human industry. This is according to a study published in the journal Nature, up from just 15% a century ago. The study, led by researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, paints the first global picture of the threat to the world’s remaining wildernesses – and the image is bleak.
And while we’re at it, animal populations have been massacred — The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else. Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970.
Air pollution is the new tobacco — The head of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said air pollution is the “new tobacco”: the simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more. “Despite this epidemic of needless, preventable deaths and disability, a smog of complacency pervades the planet,” Tedros said.
Another massive berg tips into the sea — While the internet was obsessing over that rectangular iceberg, some more disconcerting icy behaviour went down on the other side of the Antarctic: the Pine Island Glacier has been breaking off monstrous icebergs over the past five years, presenting a worrying sign that the West Antarctic is destabilising. The latest occurred this weekend. Satellite imagery shows an iceberg roughly 300 square kilometres (115 square miles, or five times the size of Manhattan) breaking off the front of the glacier (below, under ‘2018’).Good lord, is there any good news? Facebook released its third-quarter earnings on Tuesday and the results are mixed. While revenue rose 33% and profit increased 9% for the third quarter from a year earlier, revenue growth was down from the 42% jump that Facebook had reported in the previous quarter. [But these a-holes are still making a mint from flogging your data.]
Here’s a glimmer, though: Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google, and dozens of other tech companies have come together to condemn discrimination against transgender people in the face of actions President Donald Trump is reportedly considering to reduce their legal protections.

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The Apocalypticon ~ The world, climate damage, insects, coffee, water wars, Germany, Trump’s US, curbing Facebook, your Apple data, sunlight and germs, cooperation


New research shows microplastics in 90%tyde of the table salt brands sampled worldwide — Of 39 salt brands tested, 36 had microplastics in them, according to a new analysis by researchers in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia. Salt samples from 21 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia were analysed. The three brands that did not contain microplastics are from Taiwan (refined sea salt), China (refined rock salt), and France (unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation). The study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Killing the world’s biggest organism — The heaviest organism on Earth isn’t a whale or an elephant. It’s a tree – or rather, a system of over 40,000 clonal trees all connected by their roots. Pando, a 13 million pound organism in central Utah, is believed to have sprouted toward the end of the last Ice Age. But after thousands of years of thriving, Pando has run into trouble.
Hawking: there’s no god, but there will be dangerous ‘superhumans’ — Stephen Hawking wrote that artificial intelligence will eventually become so advanced it will “outperform humans.” The renowned physicist who died in March the year warns of both rises in advanced artificial intelligence and genetically-enhanced “superhumans” in his book just published posthumously.
Last week was a wild climate ride — From a landmark special report saying we basically have a decade to get our act together to Hurricane Michael decimating northwest Florida, if ever there was a time for the media to finally ask politicians about their plans to address climate change, this was it. And for once, the media delivered.
Unfortunately, the politicians they consulted did not.
Hyperalarming insect loss — Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico. The study found the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too. The latest report shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas. The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates. “Holy crap,” Wagner said of the 60-fold loss. [Indeed.]
Coffee is under threat too — “We are in the middle of the biggest coffee crisis of our time,” said the Guatemalan producer and exporter Josué Morales, who works with over 1300 growers.
World water wars — A United Nations report says we have about a decade to get climate change under control, which, let’s be honest (see above)isn’t likely to happen. So break out your goalie masks and harpoon guns, a Mad Max future awaits! Now, as new research points out, we even know where on Earth the inevitable water wars are most likely to take place [map, below – click it for a closer look].Don’t look the perp in the iPhone — It’s no secret that law enforcement often resorts to workarounds for Apple’s security features, but the Face ID technology of the iPhone X makes things tricky. According to a report from Motherboard, forensics company Elcomsoft is advising U.S. law enforcement to not even look at phones with Face ID. This is because with its Face ID feature enabled, failed attempts to get into the phone could lock investigators out by requiring a passcode that may be protected under the Fifth Amendment (in the US, anyway).

It’s a long way back to Germany — German support for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives is at an all-time low, and in few places is that more evident than Bavaria.
A booming economy and ever fewer migrants crossing the border into the wealthy alpine state haven’t eased a populist backlash against the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is the closest ally of Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrats (CDU). The CSU has governed Bavaria for all but three years since 1946, most of the time with an absolute majority. But now the far-right party AfD is currently the main opposition in the German parliament and is widely expected to win seats in the Bavarian legislature for the first time when regional elections are held.
Why, ma? When German organisers pulled together a demonstration in Berlin to support “an open and free society,” they had some ambitious goals: they expected roughly 40,000 people to pack the span from Berlin’s city centre, from Alexanderplatz to the Victory Column, where they were holding their final rally of the day.
But more than 240,000 people showed up for the march and rallies … [yep, sounds like Weimar again.] The march comes at a time when Germany’s far-right, anti-immigrant political party, Alternative for Germany (AfD: see above), is gaining ground across the country.

Trump-themed dating app leaks data almost immediately — Mere hours after Fox News revealed the existence of a new Trump-centric dating app, a security researcher apparently uncovered evidence that “Donald Daters” is leaking sensitive user information online.
The app, with the tagline ‘Make America Date Again’, is reportedly dumping photos and biographical information about its users into a publicly accessible database and may even be leaking authentication tokens, which could grant full access to a person’s account, including their private messages.
Trump may be self-made, but he’s far from a self-made billionaire Investigative reporters Susanne Craig and David Barstow say the president received today’s equivalent of $413 million from his father’s real estate empire through what appears to be tax fraud [but that’s what made him so ‘clever’, right?].
Massive partisan gaps in the new US — A new poll gives a clearer picture of what US “tribalism” no looks like: Americans differ not just on their ideology or political team, but on the issues they view as problems. The poll presented registered voters with 18 issues, asking those voters how big of a problem each issue is.
Voters supporting Democrats for Congress this year were far more likely to see most of these as problems, with majorities saying 13 out of the 18 issues are ‘very big’ problems. On many of those issues Democratic voters highlighted, there are yawning partisan gaps. For example, 8 in 10 people supporting Democrats say gun violence is a very big problem, but only 1 in 4 Republicans do. Likewise, 72% of Democrats see climate change as a big problem, compared with just 11% of Republicans.
Trump supported offering ‘free helicopter rides’ — Hilarious, right? As they mean free rides in the manner of Pinochet’s helicopters that dropped captured, bound activists and opponents into the sea. Yeah, it’ ‘just humour’.

Data: How ago all but rid yourself of Facebook — In the immediate aftermath of the news that hackers had access to the personal information of about 30 million Facebook users, Gizmodo shows you how to bolt down Facebook – should you still want to use it – so much less information about you is retained.
And here’s how to download all the data Apple has on you

Oh my lord, is there any good news? A little: your grandmother was right about sunlight killing germs: rooms exposed to daylight have fewer germs.

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: “The reason I reject that ‘me against the world’ scenario is that humans are where we are now because of cooperation, not in spite of it. We socialise and swap stories, and then we help each other dig a channel to redirect water, raise a roof or to dig a field over. In the present day, some of us might consider ourselves rugged individualists but, no matter what we tell ourselves, we have libraries at our disposal, and we use roads, social services, health care and communications networks. All of these were built by combined effort for mutual benefit.”