Rayne

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Thursday: Only You

Sometimes when I go exploring for music I find something I like but it’s a complete mystery how it came to be. I can’t tell you much of anything about this artist — only that he’s German, he’s repped by a company in the Netherlands, and his genre is house/electronica. And that’s it, apart from the fact he’s got more tracks you can listen to on SoundCloud. My favorites so far are this faintly retro piece embedded here (on SoundCloud at Only You) and Fade — both make fairly mellow listening. His more popular works are a little more aggressive, like Gunshots and HWAH.

Caught a late summer bug, not firing on all cylinders. Here’s some assorted odds and ends that caught my eye between much-needed naps.

  • Infosec firm approached investment firm to play short on buggy medical devices (Bloomberg) — Jeebus. Bloomberg calls this “highly unorthodox,” but it’s just grossly unethical. Why didn’t this bunch of hackers at MedSec go to the FDA and the SEC? This is a shakedown where they get the market to pay them first instead of ensuring patients are protected and shareholders of St. Jude medical device manufacturer’s stock are appropriately informed. I call bullshit here — they’re trying to game the system for profit and don’t give a shit about the patients at risk. You know when the maximum payout would be? When patient deaths occurred and were reported to the media.
  • Apple iPhone users, update your devices to iOS 9.3.5 stat: serious malware designed to spy and gain control of iPhone found (Motherboard) — Hey look, a backdoor applied after the fact by a “ghost” government spyware company. The malware has been around since iPhone 5/iOS 7; it could take control of an iPhone and allow a remote jailbreak of the device. Interesting this Israeli spyware firm received a big chunk of cash from U.S. investor(s).
  • Apple filed for patent on unauthorized user biometric data collection system (AppleInsider) — If an “unauthorized user” (read: thief) uses an iPhone equipped with this technology, the device could capture a photo and fingerprint of the user for use by law enforcement. Not exactly rocket science to understand how this might be used by law enforcement remotely to assure a particular contact (read: target) is in possession of an iPhone, either. Keep an eye on this stuff.
  • India-France submarine construction program hacked (NDTV) — The Indian Navy contracted construction of (6) Scorpene-class submarines from French shipbuilder DCNS. Tens of thousands of pages of information from this classified project were leaked; the source of the documents appears to be DCNS, not India. The French government as well as India is investigating the hack, which is believed to be a casualty in “economic war.”
  • Hacking of Ghostbusters’ star Leslie Jones under investigation (Guardian) — Jones’ website and iCloud accounts were breached; initial reports indicated the FBI was investigating the matter, but this report says Homeland Security is handlng the case. Does this mean an overseas attacker has already been identified?
  • Taiwanese White hat hacker and open government activist named to digital policy role (HKFP) — Audrey Tang, programmer and consultant for Apple, will shift gears from private to public sector now that she’s been appointed an executive councillor for digital policy by Taiwan. Tang has been part of the Sunflower Student Movement which has demanded greater transparency and accountability on Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement with China while resisting Chinese reunification.
  • Oops! Recent Google Apps outage caused by…Google? (Google Cloud) — Change management boo-boo borked an update; apparently engineers working on an App Engine update didn’t know software updates on routers was in progress while they performed some maintenance. Not good.
  • Gyroscope made of tiny atomic chamber could replace GPS navigation (NIST.gov) — A miniature cloud of atoms held in suspension between two states of energy could be used as a highly accurate mini-gyroscope. National Institute of Standards and Technology has been working a mini-gyro for years to provide alternate navigation in case GPS is hacked or jammed.
  • Tim Berners-Lee wants to decentralize the internet (Digital Trends) — The internet has centralized into corporate-owned silos of storage and activities like Facebook, Google and eBay. Berners-Lee, who is responsible for the development of browsing hyperlinked documents over a network, wants the internet to be spread out again and your data in your own control.

That’s enough to chew on for now. Hope to check in Friday if I shake off this bug.

North Dakota and Feds Suppress Native American Pipeline Protesters

[top: planned Dakota Access pipeline route, via Dakota Access LLC; bottom: Keystone XL pipeline, via Independent-UK]

[top: planned Dakota Access pipeline route, via Dakota Access LLC; bottom: Keystone XL pipeline, via Independent-UK]

What’s the difference between these two pipelines? Only variations are the origin of the oil they may transport and their location as far as I can tell since they are described as competing pipelines.

Oh, and the Keystone XL pipeline was vetoed by President Obama a year ago this past February because Congress tried to ram through approval, attempting to “circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest,” according to the president.

In both cases — Keystone XL and the Dakota Access — the planned pipelines traversed Native American tribal lands and/or water systems upon which these sovereign nations relied. The affected tribes have protested the credible threats these pipelines pose to their health and safety as well as their heritage and sovereignty.

The threat is real; there have been 11 pipeline accidents since 2000 on lines carrying oil or gasoline across the Dakotas. One of those pipeline accidents resulted in roughly 20,000 barrels or 865,000 gallons of oil spilling beneath a farm in North Dakota in 2013. There was a ten-day lag after the farmer brought the spill to the company’s attention until the state’s governor heard about the accident — ridiculous, considering North Dakota is the 47th largest state in terms of population, at less than 800,000 residents. It’s not like there were a lot of people in the way. The spill covered an area equal to seven football fields and clean-up is still under way and may not be completed until some time in 2017. The North Dakota Tesoro pipeline oil spill is one of the largest in the U.S. to date.

Oil producers and pipeline owners/operators have frankly been lousy in their responsibilities to the public. It’s not just the 11 pipeline accidents in the Dakotas since 2000; it’s a rather lengthy list of them across the entire country and a lengthy track record of crappy response to the damage done to the environment. My state, Michigan, which is surrounded by the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, is also the site of the largest oil pipeline spill in the U.S. In 2010, more than 1.1 million gallons of oil spilled, much of it into a waterway. Alarms notifying the pipeline’s owner, Enbridge, of the spill were initially ignored for 17 hours, blown off as operation notifications.

Simply unacceptable.

The Native American tribes have no reason whatsoever to believe oil producers and pipeline owners/operators will act with any more care than they have to date. Further, they have no reason to trust the U.S. government about these pipelines, either. They have been betrayed and damaged again and again by the U.S. — excessive and mortal police brutality, theft of human remains, theft and mismanagement of billions in assets, the indignity of fighting to remove the name of a mass murderer from public lands, the catastrophic contamination of the San Juan River supplying water to the Navajo nation — the insults are endless.

The latest insult: North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple signed an executive order to obtain more funding for additional police to deter approximately 1,500 protesters. The state has pulled water supplies used by the protesters and refused to allow portable toilets to be emptied. This follows a temporary restraining order granted to Dakota Access LLC by a federal district court against protesters’ interference with pipeline work. Native Americans have also been prevented from leaving reservation land, which may be a violation of civil rights and treaties.

Native Americans have legitimate concerns with the Dakota Access pipeline. For one, its planned route crosses the Missouri River which serves as the entire water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) approved 200 water crossings by the pipeline in spite of requests by the Sioux to deny construction permits. The ACOE, however, reviewed and rejected an alternate pipeline route crossing the Missouri River near Bismarck as it was deemed a threat to the municipal water supply. This looks like outright racism on the face of it; the pipeline is a threat to 92% white Bismarck, but not a sovereign Native American tribe?

Secondly, the ACOE has been asked by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to conduct an investigation and prepare a formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), requiring consultation with the affected tribes. No EIS appears to have been conducted to date. In addition to the health and environmental safety concerns related to the pipeline’s installation and operation, the historical significance of the area is inadequately documented. The lack of a thorough assessment means the current Dakota Access pipeline plan may disrupt an older Mandan village site where Mandan may be buried. The site has cultural and religious significance to tribes and should be protected by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation under federal law.

Dakota Access LLC is pressing for this pipeline to reduce the costs of oil. Shipping crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale reserve by rail or truck is more expensive than shipping by pipeline.

That is until ALL the true costs and externalities are added, like the spills, remediation, short- and long-term health and environmental problems are added. These costs haven’t been added to the true cost of oil and are instead a gamble which humans living nearest to the pipeline must pay if there is a failure.

[10-year monthly price of WTI per barrel via Megatrends]

[10-year monthly price of WTI per barrel via Megatrends]

While the oil producers and pipeline operators continue to hammer away at the cost of oil, the price of oil has fallen. They can’t drop the cost fast enough and deep enough to realize a return on investment. They will cut corners as much as possible as the price of oil falls — and it will, if demand for oil also falls as it has with the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles. Cutting corners means there will be greater risk the pipeline will not be adequately monitored or maintained, just as it wasn’t in Michigan.

As more and more alternative, green energy resources come on line along with the technology to use them, it will make even less sense to invest in pipelines which may not carry all that much oil. The Bakken Shale reserve is estimated at several hundred billion barrels of oil, but the amount which can be recovered readily and economically is much less than 10% of the estimated total reserve. If the oil is too expensive to extract AND competing energy resources are both cheaper and available, why build this pipeline at all? How is enabling our continuing addiction to oil in the long-term best interests of our country?

It will take some spine to do the right thing and force this project to slow down for a full EIS assessment. It will take even more spine to point out we are both at the end of fossil fuel and at the limit of our disregard for Native Americans’ lives. It can be done, however; just ask Canada’s Justin Trudeau how he did it.

Monday: Build That Wall

Poor Ireland. Poor Inishturk. To be forced to consider the onslaught of refugees fleeing political upheaval should one loud-mouthed, bigoted, multi-bankrupt idiot with bad hair win the U.S. presidency. I’m amused at how the Irish in this short film mirror the U.S. albeit in a more placid way. There are some who are ardently against him, some who’d welcome the business, and the rest cover the spread between the extremes though they lean more to the left than the right.

I find it appalling, though, that Trump would install a sea wall *now* after the golf course development has already been established, rather than do his homework upfront before investing in real estate which relies on natural dune formation. This kind of thoughtlessness is completely absurd, and the disgust evident in this film is well merited.

Keep your volume control handy; hearing Trump blathering may set your teeth on edge. Mute for a moment and continue.

Schtuff happens
I couldn’t pull a cogent theme out of the stuff crossing my desk today. I’m just laying it down — you see if you can make any sense out of it.

  • Ramen can get you killed in private prisons (Guardian) — The federal government may have to do more than simply stop using private prisons for federal criminal incarceration. This report by a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona’s school of sociology suggests states’ prisons operated by private industry may be violating prisoners’ civil rights by starving them. Ramen noodles have become a hot commodity for this reason. Not exactly a beacon of morality to the rest of the free world when incarcerated citizens must scrap for ramen noodles to make up for caloric shortfalls.
  • World Anti-Doping Agency may have been attacked by same hackers who poked holes in the DNC (Guardian) — “Fancy Bear” allegedly had a fit of pique and defaced Wada after Russian athletes were banned at Rio. This stuff just doesn’t sound the same as the hacking of NSA-front Equation Group.
  • New Mexico nuclear waste accident among most costly to date (Los Angeles Times) — Substitution of an organic kitty litter product for a mineral product two years ago set off a chemical reaction un an underground waste storage area, contaminating 35% of the surrounding space. Projected clean-up costs are $2 billion — roughly the amount spent on Three Mile Island’s meltdown.
  • Build that wall! Americans blown ashore in Canada by high winds (CBC) — Participants riding flotation devices on the St. Clair River in the annual Port Huron Float Down were pushed by high winds into Sarnia, Ontario. About 1,500 Americans had to be rescued and returned to the U.S. by Canadian police, Coast Guard, and Border Service. Just a test to see if Canada’s ready for the influx of refugees should Trump win in November, right?
  • Paternity test reveals a father’s sperm actually made him an uncle (Independent) — Upon discovering a father’s DNA only matched 10% of his child’s DNA, further genetic ancestry revealed the ‘father’ had an unborn twin whose DNA he had absorbed in the womb. His twin’s DNA matched his child’s. This is not the first time paternity testing has revealed chimerism in humans.

Commute-or-lunch-length reads

  • Walmart is a crime magnet (Bloomberg) — Holy crap. Communities should just plain refuse to permit any more Walmarts until they clean up their act. Bloomberg’s piece is a virtual how-to-fix-your-bullshit task list; Walmart has zero excuses.
  • It’s in your body, what version is it running? (Backchannel) — Before the public adopts anymore wearable or implantable medical devices, they should demand open access to the code running inside them. It’s absurd a patient can’t tell if their pacemaker’s code is jacked up.
  • Dirty laundry at Deutsche Bank (The New Yorker) — This you need to read. Parasitic banking behavior comes in many forms — in this case, Deutsche Bank laundered billions.

There, we’re well on our way this week. Catch you tomorrow!

Friday: Smells Like

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulatto, an Albino
A mosquito, my libido, yeah


— excerpt, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

Been a rough week so I’m indulging myself with some double bass — and because it’s Friday, it’s jazz. This is 2009 Thelonious Monk Competition winner Ben Williams whose ‘Teen Spirit’ is both spirited and minimalist. Check out this set with Home and Dawn Of A New Day, the first embued with a hip-hoppy beatmaking rhythm.

More Shadows on the wall
While Marcy has some questions about the recent alleged Shadow Brokers’ hack of NSA-front Equation Group and malware staging servers, I have a different one.

Why is Cisco, a network equipment company whose equipment appears to have been backdoored by the NSA, laying off 20% of its workforce right now? Yeah, yeah, I hear there’s a downturn in networking hardware sales due to Brexit and the Chinese are fierce competitors and businesses are moving from back-end IT to the cloud, but I see other data that says 50-60% of ALL internet traffic flows through Cisco equipment and there are other forecasts anticipating internet traffic growth to double between now and 2020, thanks in part to more video streaming and mobile telecom growth replacing PCs. Sure, software improvements will mediate some of that traffic’s pressure on hardware, but still…there’s got to be both ongoing replacement of aging equipment and upgrades (ex: Southwest Airlines’ router-fail outage), let alone new sales, and moving the cloud only means network equipment is consolidated, not distributed. Speaking of new sales and that internet traffic growth, there must be some anticipation related to increased use of WiFi-enabled Internet of Things stuff (technical term, that — you know, like Philips’ Hue lighting and Google Nest thermostats and Amazon Echo/Alexa-driven services).

Something doesn’t add up. Or maybe something rolls up. I dunno’. There are comments out on the internet suggesting competitor Huawei is hiring — that’s convenient, huh?

AI and Spy

  • Data security firm working on self-tweeting AI (MIT Review) — The software can generate tweets more likely to illicit response from humans than the average phishing/spearphishing attempt. Seems a little strange that a data security company is working on a tool which could make humans and networks less secure, doesn’t it?
  • Toyota sinks a bunch of cash into AI project at U of Michigan (ReadWrite) — $22 million the automaker pledged to development of self-driving cars, stair-climbing wheelchairs and other mobility projects. Toyota has already invested in similar AI development programs at Stanford in Palo Alto, CA and MIT in Cambridge, MA. Funding academic research appears to be a means to avoid a bigger hit to the corporation’s bottom line if the technologies do not yield commercially viable technology.
  • Steganography developed to mask content inside dance music (MIT Review) — Warsaw University of Technology researcher co-opted the rhythm specific to Ibiza trance music genre. The embedded Morse code buried in rhythm could not be audibly detected by casual listeners as long as it did not distort the tempo by more than 2%.

Sci-like-Fi

  • New theory suggests fifth force of nature possible (Los Angeles Times) — The search for a “dark photon” may have led to a new theory explaining the existence and action of dark energy and dark matter, which together make up 95% of the universe. I admit I need to hunt down a better article on this; this one doesn’t make all the pieces snap into place for me. If you’ve seen a better one, please share in comments.
  • Sound wave-based black hole model may show Hawking radiation at work (Scientific American) — Can’t actually create a real black hole in the lab, but a model like this one created by an Israeli scientist using phonons (not photons) may prove Stephen Hawking was right about information leakage from black holes. The work focuses on the actions of quantum-entangled particle pairs which are separated on either side of the event horizon. Beyond adding to our understanding of the universe, how this work will be used isn’t quite clear. But use of quantum entanglement in cryptography is an important and growing field; I wouldn’t be surprised to see this finding shapes cryptographic development.
  • Pregnant women’s immune system response may affect fetus’ neurological system (MedicalXpress via Phys.org) — While an expectant mother’s immune system may prevent a virus from attacking her fetus, the protective process may still affect the fetus long term. Research suggests that some neurological disorders like schizophrenia and autism may be associated with maternal infections pre-birth.

Late adder: Travel Advisory issued for pregnant women to avoid Miami Beach area according to CDC — Five more cases of Zika have been identified and appeared to have originated in the newly identified second Zika zone, this one east of Biscayne Bay in the Miami Beach area. The initial Zika zone was on the west side of Biscayne Bay. The CDC also discouraged pregnant women and their sex partners from traveling to Miami-Dade County as a whole; the county has now had a total of 36 cases of Zika.

In the video in the report linked above, FL Gov. Rick Scott pokes at the White House about additional Zika assistance, but Scott previously reduced spending on mosquito control by 40%. Now he’s ready to pay private firms to tackle mosquito spraying. Way to go, Republican dirtbag. Penny wise, pound foolish, and now it’s somebody else’s job to bat cleanup.

Longread: Stampede at JFK
A firsthand account of the public’s stampede-like reaction to a non-shooting at New York’s JFK International Airport. To paraphrase an old adage, if all you have is a gun, everything looks and sounds like a shooting.

Let go of your fear and let the weekend begin.

Thursday: Creep

Covers are often treated like poor relations in hand-me-downs. It’s not the performer’s own work, how can they possibly do the original justice?

Yeah…and then this. I think it’s an example of an exceptional cover. It’s one of my favorites. There are a number of other fine covers of this same piece — some are sweet, some have better production values, and some are very close to Radiohead’s original recording. But this one has something extra. Carrie Manolakos, a Broadway performer known for her role as Elphaba in Wicked, takes a breath at 2:19 and watch out. Her second album will release next month if you enjoy her work.

In Sickness and Health
Here, read these two stories and compare them:

Leaving you with the actual heds on these articles. How isn’t this simple extortion? You know, like, “Nice national health care system you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it.”

Cry me a river about corporate losses. Last I checked Aetna’s been paying out dividends regularly, which means they still have beaucoup cash.

If only we’d had a debate about offering single payer health care for everyone back in 2009 so we could say Fuck You to these vampiric corporate blackmailers.

Still in Shadow
A timeline of articles, analysis, commentary on the hacking of NSA malware staging servers by Shadow Brokers — no window dressing, just links:

15-AUG-2016 8:48 AM — https://twitter.com/mikko/status/765168232454037504 (Mikko Hypponen–Kaspersky tweeting discovery of Shadow Brokers’ auction of Equation Group code)

16-AUG-2016 7:22 AM — http://cybersecpolitics.blogspot.com/2016/08/why-eqgrp-leak-is-russia.html (Info sec expert Dave Aitel’s assessment on hackers responsible)

16-AUG-2016 7:40 AM — https://twitter.com/Snowden/status/765513662597623808 (Edward Snowden’s tweet thread [NB: don’t be an idiot and click on any other links in that thread])

16-AUG-2016 7:22 PM — https://securelist.com/blog/incidents/75812/the-equation-giveaway/ (time zone unclear)

16-AUG-2016 ?:?? — http://xorcat.net/2016/08/16/equationgroup-tool-leak-extrabacon-demo/

17-AUG-2016 8:05 AM EST — https://motherboard.vice.com/read/what-we-know-about-the-exploits-dumped-in-nsa-linked-shadow-brokers-hack

17-AUG-2016 ?:?? — https://www.cs.uic.edu/~s/musings/equation-group/ (University of Illinois’ Stephen Checkoway’s initial impressions)

17-AUG-2016 7:23 PM EST — https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsas-use-of-software-flaws-to-hack-foreign-targets-posed-risks-to-cybersecurity/2016/08/17/657d837a-6487-11e6-96c0-37533479f3f5_story.html

18-AUG-2016 6:59 AM EST — https://twitter.com/RidT/status/766228082160242688 (Thomas Rid suggests Shadow Brokers’ auction may be “retaliation” — note at this embedded tweet the use of “retaliation” and the embedded, highlighted image in which the words “Panama Papers” appear in red. Make of that what you will.[1])

18-AUG-2016 2:35 PM EST — https://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-shadow-brokers-nsa-leakers-linguistic-analysis (Two linguists suggest Shadow Brokers’ primary language is English distorted to mimic Russian ESL)

You know what this reminds me of? Sony Pictures’ email hacking. Back and forth with Russia-did-it-maybe-not-probably, not unlike the blame game pointing to North Korea in Sony’s case. And the linguistic analysis then suggesting something doesn’t quite fit.

[Today's front pages from USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, shared here under Fair Use.]

[Today’s front pages from USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, shared here under Fair Use.]

American Refugees
I read in one of my timelines today a complaint by a journalist about Louisiana flooding news coverage. Wish I’d captured the thread at the time; they were put out that the public was unhappy about the media’s reporting — or lack thereof. They noted all the links to articles, videos, photos being shared in social media, noting this content came from journalists.

Except there really is a problem. The embedded image here is the front page of each of the four largest newspapers in the U.S. based on circulation, total combined circulation roughly six million readers. NONE OF THEM have a story on the front page about the flooding in Louisiana, though three of them covered the California Blue Cut Fire. Naturally, one would expect the Los Angeles Times to cover a fire in their own backyard, and they do have a nice photo-dense piece online. But nothing on the front page about flooding.

The Livingston Parish, Louisiana sheriff noted more than 100,000 parish residents had lost everything in the flood. There are only 137,000 total residents in that parish.

Between the +80,000 Blue Cut Fire evacuees and more than 100,000 left temporarily homeless in Louisiana, the U.S. now has more than a couple hundred thousand climate change refugees for which we are utterly unprepared. The weather forecast this week is not good for the Gulf Coast as unusually warm Gulf water continues to pump moisture into the atmosphere. We are so not ready.

Longread: The last really big American flood
Seven Scribes’ Vann R. Newkirk II looks at the last time a long bout of flooding inundated low-lying areas in the south, setting in motion the Great Migration. This is the history lesson we’ve forgotten. We need to prepare for even worse because like the Blue Cut Fire in California and Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York, disaster won’t be confined to a place too easily written off the front page.

One more day. Hope to make it through.
_________
[1] Edited for clarity. Kind of.

Tuesday: One String

There aren’t enough words to describe this genius who can do so much with a lone string. Brushy One String is the stagename of Andrew Chin, son of Jamaican musician Freddie McKay. McKay died in 1986 in his late 30s, leaving behind a body of work representative of the rocksteady (ex: Rock-a-Bye Woman) and reggae genres. While Brushy inherited his father’s musical talent, he’s parlayed into an interesting Rhythm-and-Blues-meets-Roots-Reggae crossover. Check out his website when you have a chance.

Wheels

  • Volkswagen and USDOJ talking about criminal investigation (Deutsche Welle) — Up in the air yet whether DOJ goes with deferred prosecution or asks for a guilty plea from the lawmaker for criminal activity related to the promotion and sale of its so-called “Clean Diesel” passenger vehicles during the last decade. Criminal fines are estimated at $1.2 billion. VW claims to be cooperating, but the company’s failure to disclose the additional cheat software in the 3.0L engines suggests some problems understanding what “good faith” means.
  • Volkswagen’s Australian manager believes diesel fix “imminent” (CarsGuide) — And “Under Australian law, we don’t believe there’s anything on our car which is illegal.” Uh-huh. Hence the fix for 80,000 1.6L and 2.0L passenger diesels. It’s true that Australia is not as strict about NOX as the U.S., but VW’s passenger diesels didn’t meet EU or AUS limits on other pollutants.
  • Ford expects to offer self-driving car without steering wheel within five years (Detroit News) — Well, then. Better hope regulations don’t require a steering wheel, huh? Ford has also invested $75M in LiDAR-maker Velodyne; Chinese search engine company Baidu has likewise made a $75M investment. LiDAR is expected to provide navigational assistance for these self-driving vehicles.

Way Up There

Words

  • Univision’s bid wins Gawker Media (Recode) — Of the two known bidders — Ziff-Davis and Univision — the latter’s $135M bid won bankrupt Gawker Media and its brands. Gawker’s lineup joins The Onion and The Root, purchased by Univision, and Fusion which Univision originally created jointly with Disney and now owns outright. Founder Nick Denton seems pleased with this outcome as his brands and workers continue without disruption; billionaire Pete Thiel gets partial revenge on Denton for outing him by forcing the bankruptcy and sale. Univision’s editorial policy will be less personal in its coverage — probably a good thing. Let’s check back in a year.
  • ‘Not a good fit’ says Barnes & Noble as CEO shown the door (GalleyCat) — Whoa. You don’t see such blunt statements about CEOs, especially one with less than a year under their belt. The company’s stock has been up though retail sales continued to struggle in competition against Amazon. Feels like there’s more to this story. In the mean time, Ron Boire is out the door and executive chairman Leonard Riggio will delay his retirement until a new CEO is found. Hope the next one can salvage NOOK tablet platform because I can’t stand Amazon’s Kindle.
  • Turkish court closes pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem (Business Standard) — Claiming the paper was a propaganda outlet for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), labeled a terrorist organist organization by Turkey, EU, and the US. The court said the closure was not related to the government’s post-coup purge of media believed to be sympathetic to Gülen movement. An appeal is possible.

I-Spy: Cyber Edition
You’ve probably heard about the alleged hacking of a NSA server and the subsequent attempt to auction contents from that server. Edward Snowden offered his perspective on the situation — I’ve Storify’d the tweet thread for your reading ease.

The disclosure and attempted auction were likely done by Russia for political reasons given the timing. Hacking and accessing the contents of the server should be expected — it’s ordinary spying, same as the U.S. does. But the revelation is a new tack; Snowden suggests it’s a warning to the U.S. about potential future disclosures. Read the thread for yourself.

I don’t think this hacking and disclosure happened in a vacuum. There’s a much bigger game to puzzle out — add the meeting between Russia and Saudi Arabia to “achieve oil market stability” as well as Russia’s express interest in Saudi Arabia’s plans to build as many as 16 nuclear reactors. Factor in a change in relationship between Iran and Russia now that Russia has deployed long-range bombers from Iran for the first time against ISIS. Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran have some of the largest proven oil reserves in the world, all three in the top 10 and in Saudi’s case, influence over OPEC. Is Russia preparing for asymmetric economic pressure?

Late adder: #BlueCutFire in San Bernadino County, CA is very bad, now 82,000 ordered to evacuate.

That’s it for now, still Tuesday in the next time zone. Let’s see if I can make it over the hump earlier tomorrow.

Monday: Skate Away

Monday means it’s movie day, and I think this charming little documentary fills the bill. Valley Of A Thousand Hills from Jess Colquhoun looks at Zulu youth participating in a skate camp and the impact on their lives. They’re quite optimistic in spite of limited resources and opportunities. The film left the feeling they’re on the verge of a breakthrough — like these kids could really change global culture if they wanted to. They appear more self-aware and energized than most adults I run into of late.

Wrath of Gods kind of weather

Might be time to brush off that copy of J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World and ponder a post-apocalyptic future under water. We’ve likely passed the 1.5C degree global warming threshold without any sense of urgency to act on climate change which fuels this wave of flooding.

Sigh-ber

  • Hotels across ten states breached (Reuters) — Hey, now you philanderers have an excuse for that bizarre charge to your room at the Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, or InterContinental hotel for strawberries, whip cream, and a leather flogger during your last business trip. “It’s just a hacker, honey, that’s all, really…” HEI Hotels & Resorts, the operator of the affected hotels, found the malware in its systems handling payment card data. The malware had been present in the system for roughly 18 months while 20,000 transactions were exposed.
  • Google ‘secretly’ developing a new OS (TechnoBuffalo) — A well-known Linux blogger wrote Google references “Pink + Purple == Fuschia (a new Operating System)” in its Git repository. The two colors are believed to refer to Magenta and LK kernels which Google is using to build a wholly new operating system. Magenta does not have a Wikipedia entry at the time of this post but Googlesource has a brief explainer for Magenta and LK. The two kernels serve different purposes but combined they may be able to operate any device whether small Internet of Things single purpose devices or multi-purpose devices like personal computers. This may be the direction Google has chosen to go rather than fully merge its Chrome OS with Android. The new operating system could also resolve some annoying problems with antitrust regulators if Android is cut loose and managed by an open source consortium, perhaps one established by and aligned with the Open Handset Alliance.
  • Banking malware attacks Android users browsing sites using Google AdSense (SecureList) — The thieves pay for a listing on AdSense, put their malicious ad in the system, and it downloads to an Android device whenever the user reads a website featuring the contaminated ad. Yuck. Use your antivirus app regularly on your Android devices as this nasty thing may pick up your financial information.

Longread: Manners matter?
At Aeon.com, Professor Eleanor Dickey of University of Reading-UK discusses the ‘magic word’ and its use in early democratic society, and its decline with the rise of a hierarchical system in the fourth century BCE. Are we a more or less democratic society based on our current level of societal manners?

Catch you tomorrow if the creek doesn’t rise!

Friday: The Immoral Minority

While philosopher Slavoj Žižek isn’t everybody’s cup of quirky tea, he’s got a valid point in this video.

The right-wing has abandoned its claim to be the Moral Majority.

Don’t mistake this as a validation of the Democratic Party here in the U.S.; they are only earning a majority in terms of politics, and in no small part by being the “Not GOP” party. With its leadership cozying up to war criminals, climate denialists and fossil fuel-based polluters, and general denigrators both of human rights and the public commons, they are not the Moral Majority by default.

But an unorganized left in this country rejects the right-wing’s ethical decay implicitly underpinning the Republican Party. The left rejects those values which undermine democracy — misogyny, racism and marginalization of other minorities, the ongoing subversion of individuals’ rights to promote the interests of corporations.

A true Moral Majority won’t support a social contract undermining democracy by limiting life, liberty, and happiness’ pursuit to a narrow few. It’s well past time for the broader left to coalesce into an organized entity based upon the belief that all humans are created equal and deserving a more perfect union.

Zapped by Zika

  • “ZIKA VIRUS | Days since White House funding request: 186 | Funding response from Congress: $0 | Zika cases in US and territories: 8,580” (Tweet, Dan Diamond/Politico)
  • Peter robbed to pay Paul: DHHS pulls money from other projects to fund Zika vaccine research (Reuters) — Lacking new dedicated funding from Congress, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services squeezed out $81 million and spread it into Zika vaccine research, with $34 million of that to the National Institutes of Health and $47 million to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The white House had asked for $1.9 billion last fall for Zika, but that amount was pared down by 42%; Republicans then objected to any of the remaining portion going to Planned Parenthood, putting Democrats in a bind. Access to birth control is critically important to preventing Zika’s spread; access to abortion could prevent the birth of severely deformed infants who will live short, utterly miserable, and expensive lives.
  • Arthrogryposis — congenital joint defects — associated with Zika during pregnancy (The BMJ) — Dislocated and or misshaped knees, ankles, elbows, hips appeared in children born with other neurological defects found in Zika-infected fetuses. Further research is necessary to prove both the virus is causal and learn the mechanism by which the virus inflicts this damage in utero. The patients had been tested for other known causes of arthrogryposis — toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella, syphilis, and HIV. All were negative.
  • First infant death due to Zika reported in Texas (KHOU) — The infant’s mother traveled to El Salvador during pregnancy where it is believed she contracted the virus.
  • Zika virus case confirmed in Monroe County, Michigan (Detroit Free Press) — But the method of infection is not clear (what?!). County health and state officials are working toward mosquito surveillance.

Wheels and steals

  • Millions of vehicles made from 1995 on vulnerable to keyless-remote hacking (USENIX) — Researchers at University of Birmingham and Kasper & Oswald GmbH presented a paper at the USENIX 2016 conference, showing more than 20 years’ worth of VW Group vehicles are hackable using inexpensive Arduino-based RF transceiver technology. Alfa Romeo, Chevrolet, Peugeot, Lancia, Opel, Renault, Ford and other makes relying on the Hitag2 access security method are similarly at risk. Researchers also looked at after-market keyless entry remotes for these and other vehicles; the cars for which these worked were also vulnerable. All vehicles tested appear to be those made for the European market, but the research noted the radio frequency differences — 315 MHz band in North America and the 433 MHz or 868 MHz band in Europe — used in remotes. The paper’s research team notified VW in November 2015 of their results; NXP Semiconductor, a manufacturer of Hitag2 remote technology, was also notified. NXP had already informed customers of the vulnerability in 2012 and has already improved device security.
  • Volkswagen suppressed news about keyless remote insecurity since 2013 (Bloomberg) — The same researchers from University of Birmingham and Kasper & Oswald GmbH had originally approached NXP Semiconductor and VW with their work in 2012 and 2013, respectively. VW sued and blocked release of their work; the paper was released this past week at USENIX only “after lengthy negotiations” and the removal of a single sentence which car thieves could use to easily crack the keyless remotes. A number of suspicious automobile thefts over the years may have relied on hacking remotes; will insurance companies look into these thefts and demand recovery from VW?
  • DOE grants Ford $6M for fuel cell research (Detroit Free Press) — Existing fuel cell technology has been too expensive for successful commercialization; the grant will be used to develop cheaper technology competitive with battery and internal combustion engines.

Longread: Geopolitics
FiveBooks.com interviewed former state department official and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Jennifer M. Harris, about geopolitics. She discusses the topic and offers five book recommendations about the same. Harris is the co-author of recently released War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft. Given her work as U.S. National Intelligence Council staff followed by work on economics under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, this interview might offer a preview to future statecraft.

Friday Jazz
It’s still Friday somewhere according to my clock. Try French performer Zaz, stage name for Isabelle Geffroy. If you like this ditty, preview more of her work on her channel on SoundCloud.

It’s been a hectic week here; next week doesn’t look any better, but I’ll aim to be here on Monday. Have a relaxing weekend!

Tuesday: En Garde

Looks like it’s going to be a thing this week, covering women in sports. This is a marvelous example of covering a female competitor, this short film profiling U.S. Women’s Individual Foil fencer Nzingha Prescod — it’s about her and her approach to her sport, period. Does she sound like somebody who doesn’t care about the results of competition, like she’d rather have narrative surrounding it?

Her next match is tomorrow at 8:10 a.m.; I wish I could catch it live online.

[Journalism 101 fail again -- who are these competitors and what country do they play for? Which sport is this?]

[Journalism 101 fail again — who are these competitors and what country do they play for? Which sport is this?]

Another example of crappy coverage comes from BBC — can’t imagine why the UK became so white nationalist, can you? Let’s not note the countries or the individual competitors, let’s point out their attire and hint at religious and political positions at the same time. What garbage.

If you’re not already familiar with ‘male gaze‘, it’s time for a primer on this concept first theorized 41 years ago by Laura Mulvey. I don’t know if I can even call it purely feminist theory any longer though it arose because of feminism’s emergence. The way content is constructed can be political, and the way we view it can also be political; if content can be constructed for the male gaze, it can also be constructed to perform for political ideology. What we see in the BBC’s photo is both a political and sexist statement — the bikini-clad woman preferred over the fully-clothed woman whose attire has been mislabeled (it’s not a burka), the lack of identity in either case. These women are figures to be looked at for visual enjoyment and not in a manner which satisfies women but a male gaze with a particular ideological slant.

The problem with NBC’s constructed Olympic coverage is that the corporation believes it has created a ‘female gaze’ product — but women don’t feel immersed in the sports they are watching, continually disrupted by the inauthenticity of the content they are viewing. It feels forced, like we are supposed to care about the content presented apart from the actual sports on the screen based on a third (and likely straight male) party’s expectations of the female audience, but the mediation and curation process interfere with our autonomy in viewing. We feel a jarring disconnect from a state of attentive viewing into a state of critical viewing — we’re left unsatisfied.

I don’t think men are feeling any better about the content they are seeing because it fails to serve their gaze in a manner which they have always expected from the male-led sports and entertainment industries.

It’s so damned easy to fix, too.

The one entity finding a silver lining in NBC’s coverage of the Olympics? Netflix, which blames flat subscriber growth on the games’ broadcast. Hard to argue with this based on anecdotal evidence; everybody who ordinarily binges on Netflix programming and shares the experience in social media during cooler months is now complaining about NBC’s programming.

Wheels

  • Not one but THREE illegal emissions control software programs in VW’s 3.0L vehicles (Reuters) — U.S. isn’t saying how they found them but the existence of multiple programs hints at the reason for the lack of a “fix” for 3.0L passenger diesels under the terms of the proposed settlement. Volkswagen has admitted to emissions controls defeat in its 2.0L and 3.0L passenger diesel vehicles it marketed as “clean diesel” here in the U.S., but it has not been forthcoming about the emissions cheat methodology. If I had to guess, I’d say every one of the 3.0L vehicles will be bought back — because even after all this time, VW having known the cheats were discovered in 2014, the company still does not have a true fix for the 3.0L engine.
  • GM now testing self-driving Bolt in AZ (The Detroit News) — This is the second city in which GM has tested the Bolt; first tests were in San Francisco, which seems to me more challenging than Scottsdale.
  • Court case against GM starts this week (Bloomberg) — Judge will have their hands full trying to keep the case focused on whether ignition switch at fault or not given the driver’s youth and alleged reckless driving.

Wings

  • Delta’s massive outage yesterday still causing scheduling problems (Bloomberg) — System failure still attributed to power outage though interestingly Georgia Power said it was a Delta problem. No mention anywhere of other possible causes for the outage — so far.
  • Southwest’s July outage revealed enterprise problems (Bloomberg) — The crash of a single router caused massive problems which Southwest is still digging out of weeks later. Why is this airline lacking adequate failover? Why is this airline so focused on stock price now to detriment of instructure, in spite of fuel costs having fallen so much since June 2014?
  • Teen security research awarded one million flyer miles by United Airlines (ZDNet) — Olivier Beg reported 20 undisclosed bugs to the airline. The largest single reward he received was 250K miles, meaning the worst single bug he found was medium in severity. Certainly cheaper to offer Beg the equivalent of 20 roundtrips to the U.S. than pay for the costs related to a major bug-related outage.

Words

One for the road
Looks like the FBI hasn’t found an app for that yet — remote surveillance on smartphones, that is. Isn’t that interesting?

Off to cook dinner before the nightly Olympic debacle begins. Wonder what fresh hell the taped delayed coverage will bring?

Just Another Misogynist Monday

[What's her name? How hard is it to print her name? Isn't this Journalism 101 -- get the subject's name?]

[What’s her name? How hard is it to print her name? Isn’t this Journalism 101 — get the subject’s name?]

I’m not watching the Olympics on NBC. I see more than enough of the events in my social media feed that I don’t need to turn on the television. This post is based on the observations and media content shared online, an indicator of just how much content there is about the Olympics, both corporate and personal.

And I am SO glad I haven’t bothered to watch based on the persistent anger in my timeline. NBC’s coverage has been a bunch of sexist and racist nonsense, framing female athletes not by their performance but by the men or white family members in their lives.

Like noting a particular athlete became a mother since her last competition — gee, how many of the male athletes became fathers? The narrative NBC built around each woman competitor sounds more like an observation of their performing femininity. “She’s turned in the best time and look, she can still clean house and wear a dress!” Obnoxious.

Or in the case of Simone Biles, a woman of color, about whom NBC’s Al Trautwig feels compelled to note she’s adopted. He cannot simply talk about Biles’ gymnastic performance or the family who came for her as her parents.

Other U.S. media covering the Olympics don’t do any better, like this ridiculous bullshit from The Chicago Tribune and USAToday. First this internationally-recognized athlete is not named but identified as the spouse of non-Olympic male athlete — then half-assed corrections revealing her name still ensure she’s pegged as a man’s wife. Are you kidding me with this?

[Because the Chicago Bears figure largely to the Olympics...]

[Because the Chicago Bears figure largely to the Olympics…]

The Washington Post criticized NBC’s coverage this weekend, but the columnist made her own sexist dig in doing so by calling it “paperback romance novel approach.” Can you say “internalized oppression”? This merely reinforces the marginalizing pink ghetto-ization of genre literature which for women offers subversive escape.

The rationalization for NBC’s craptastic framing as offered to WaPo:

Women don’t watch the Olympics for the live results; they watch it for the narrative. Or that’s the reasoning of NBC, anyway. As the network’s chief marketing officer John Miller explained:

“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” he told Philly.com recently. “More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”Women don’t watch the Olympics for the live results; they watch it for the narrative. Or that’s the reasoning of NBC, anyway. As the network’s chief marketing officer John Miller explained:

“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” he told Philly.com recently. “More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

“Less interested in the result” — yeah, that’s why so many women in my timeline were holding their breath as they waited for gymnasts’ scores, or flailing on keyboards as swimmers sped toward the end of the pool. They do care, deeply and intensely, about the results of each sport.

But they don’t care for propping up men — oh, look, this swimmer co-parents with his med student wife, and wow, this guy was responsible for this woman’s swimming medal — at the expense of women.

We are not things. We are not your wallpaper or props. We are not accessories to men’s or white people’s lives. We don’t need your white and/or male validation to affirm our existence. We are competitors who work fucking hard to meet others as committed to sports as we are. We are viewers who appreciate the competitors’ respect and commitment to sport and want to see the field strive hard and the best win.

The fact that we have been born with a vagina or different skin color should be irrelevant to corporate content.

I’ll do a daily roundup later today. Get your sports talk out here in thread. ~R

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