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Wednesday: Heat of Passion

Crazy stuff happens when there’s a full moon like last night’s. Crazier stuff happens under heat and pressure. Brace yourselves as the heat dome slides from the southwest to Midwest and east this week.

Hot wheels

  • A look at the whys behind Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal (DailyBeast) — Interesting read in which German and VW culture loom large as contributing factors behind the fraud that is ‘Clean Diesel’.
  • New York, Maryland, Massachusetts each file lawsuits against VW (Reuters) — Filings accuse VW of violating states’ enviromental laws. The suits claim VW’s executives knew ‘clean diesel’ technology would not meet states’ environmental standards, and that former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn knew about this failure since 2006. The suits also claim VW employees willfully tampered with evidence after they were told an order to freeze documents was impending. A DOJ criminal investigation is still underway.
  • VW set aside another $2.4B (BBC) — In addition to the previous $15.3B, the additional amount was set aside to address “further legal risks predominately arising in North America.” Hmm…was that about the states’ environmental lawsuits now popping up?
  • And yet VW’s stock price popped up because profits (TheStreet) — Uh-huh. Short-term churn, unsustainable, because VW hasn’t yet seen half of its legal exposures given the number of states’ lawsuits so far, let alone other countries’ claims. VW expects sales to lag over last year, too, not to mention all the other factors increasing market instability.
  • EU Competition Commission busts European truck cartel with $3.2B fine (Bloomberg) — Interesting push-pull inside this story: Scania AB, a Swedish truckmaker owned by Volkswagen, has been penalized after MAN SE, another Volkswagen subsidiary, squealed to the EU and got its $1.2B fine waived. Wonder if VW execs did the math on that in advance? Another interesting tidbit is Volvo’s reduction in production here in North America and abroad, blamed on stagnant market; this says something about consumption.
  • Mercedes’ self-driving buses pass 20-kilometer trip test (The Verge) — IMO, self-driving mass transport should have priority over passenger cars; there’s not much difference between a semi-autonomous bus on a scheduled route and a streetcar on a track like those in New Orleans or San Francisco, and we know they are successful. This distance test could mean a lot to cities the size of Detroit; now will U.S. transportation companies meet Mercedes’ challenge?

Miscellany

  • Feds seizing assets related to Malaysian theft, including Wolf of Wall Street (THR) — DOJ tracking down the $1B stolen from Malaysia; destinations of cash may suffer asset forfeiture including rights to artworks like recent pop music and films. Background on the 1MDb scandal here (not to be confused with Amazon’s subsidiary IMDb.com).
  • Oil bidness, part 1 — UK edition: Oil price crash plus Brexit accelerates capping of North Sea well heads (Bloomberg) — The uncertainty of UK’s future plans makes the country a good opportunity especially when the pound is low to shut down wells. It’ll only cost more to do the same when UK comes out of its funk, and the well heads must close eventually due to falling demand and a long-term glut expected. Oh, and Scotland. Don’t forget the risk of costly transition between a UK pound, the euro, and a possible Scottish pound in the future.
  • Oil bidness, part 2 — Russian edition: Oil price below $40/BBL will help Russia (Bloomberg) — Okay, this one made me laugh my butt off. Uh-huh, less cash is exactly what Putin wants in order to make Russia great again. Right. The real crux is and has been Russia’s access to cash for their defense (offense?), and it’s not Russia who wants less cash spent on that.
  • BEFORE meeting with UK’s PM May, Scotland’s FM Sturgeon suggested another indy ref vote next year (The Scotsman) — I think this is the match-up we’ll want to watch, the volley of words between Sturgeon and May as they jockey for best position. Sturgeon has the upper hand, period; she’d already had a chat with the EU about remaining in the community before May was named PM, though Spain was a sticking point (because of their own potential breakaway state, Catalonia).
  • Student researching WiFi brings center of Brussels to a screeching halt (Le Soir) — Good news, bad news story: Security took note of the young man wearing too long a coat for the day’s heat and halted traffic in the city’s center as counterterror teams were dispatched. Turns out the guy was just studying the city’s WiFi. Good that security wasn’t goofing off, bad that even looking odd while researching can stop a major city.

Stay cool — I’m considering popcorn for dinner at the local cineplex this evening until the sun sets and the temperature drops outside. Dinner tomorrow and Friday might be Jujubes and Good-and-Plenty.

Tuesday: Rubbish

This won’t be everybody’s cup of matcha and may not offer an optimum listening experience for most business offices. Today’s kick-in-the-seat to start the week is a Japanese rock genre at the intersection of glam rock and black metal. Visual kei rock combines glam’s signature elements with black metal’s dark, heaviness. Some say punk influences visual kei but I really don’t see or hear it. Depending on the song, death metal is far more likely to leak through both in sound and appearance.

For a little lighter variant — more pure metal than glam or black — try this live performance from Vistlip. The relationship between visual kei and both anime and video games is quite obvious. Want a little estrogen-loaded visual kei? Try exist trace’s Daybreak; it, too, is not as dark and heavy, though the band can still hammer really black tunes.

Now that the kick in the ass has been locked and loaded…

NINE DAYS
Including today, that’s the total number of days booked as in session on the U.S. House of Representatives’ business calendar for July, of which only six days have events scheduled.

Can’t see anything farther out. And of the events booked so far, nothing appears for the benefit of the Flint Water Crisis. Roughly 8000 lead-poisoned kids completely forgotten.

Michigan’s state house has a mess of stuff on the calendar, but none of it clearly marked in reference to Flint Water Crisis. I imagine that hack Rep. Pscholka may have something buried in the items labeled “zero budget.”

Brexit buffoonery
Whenever I get really upset with the condition of our state and federal governance, I can just take a look across the pond. The back-stabbing drama surrounding the future leadership of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister’s office looks like a mashup of House of Cards and Game of Thrones minus dragons. I’ll let Christoph Waltz speak for me about the resignation of Ukip’s Nigel Farage this weekend. I fear, though, that U.S. politics will take the Brexit debacle as a prompt going into the general election.

  • Pound fell to lowest level post-Brexit vote (France24) — The perceived inability for either the Conservatives or Labour parties to organize its leadership let alone steer out of Brexit weighs on business. Let’s say Marcy’s right and the Brits manage to put the brakes on this: when and how will that happen? The lack of direction and specificity between now and sometime after September’s next UK election costs money.
  • Apple stock could take a hit because of Brexit (Bloomberg) — Folks may update their iPhones more slowly due to economic pressures, says Citigroup analyst. IMO, it’s not the updates that will hurt Apple’s income as much as currency fluctuations. Was Apple able to hedge its financial holdings adequately against the abrupt drop in GBP value?
  • EU to spend $2B on public+private cybersecurity efforts (The Register) — Will UK be omitted from this spending plan altogether, AND will the EU begin to treat the UK as a potential cybersecurity risk in whatever plans it develops?

Automotive Uh-oh

Cyberia

  • Second “Fappening” hacker will plead guilty (NYMag) — Finally! It only took two years reach this point in prosecution of hacker who phished celebrities accounts for nude photos. But phishing corporations is a threat to the public’s security, while phishing women’s Gmail and iCloud accounts isn’t a threat to anybody, right? Because women’s bodies and personal information aren’t valuable nor is systematically invading their privacy terrorizing. Ugh. Gender bias in law enforcement.
  • Advocacy groups file rulemaking petition with FCC on automakers’ use of Direct Short Range Communication (DSRC) (PublicKnowledge.org) — Automakers are standardizing AI systems around DSRC; two groups want the FCC to

    • Limit DSRC to life and safety uses only. The auto industry plans to take spectrum allocated for safety of life and monetize it with advertising and mobile payments. This compromises cybersecurity and potentially violates the privacy of every driver and passenger.
    • Require automakers to file a cybersecurity plan before activating DSRC systems. This plan should not only show that auto manufacturers have taken appropriate precautions today, but explain how they will update security over the life of the vehicle.
    • Data transparency and breach notification. Auto manufacturers must inform purchasers of DSRC-equipped cars what personal information they collect and how they will use that information. In the event of a data breach, the manufacturer collecting the information must notify the customer.

  • Conficker malware found widely in internet-enabled medical equipment (Threatpost) — Medical facilities still aren’t taking adequate measures to ensure internet-enabled equipment remains unattached from the internet, safe from other forms of injection (like USB ports), and free of malware. Devices like dialysis pumps and diagnostic equipment for MRIs and CT scans are infected. Same security gaps also led to leak of 655,000 patients’ data over the internet two weeks ago.

Man, even in this heat this snowball just doesn’t want to stop once it starts rolling down the hill. At least it’s a short week. See you tomorrow!

Friday: Death to All That Jazz

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

— excerpt, Dulce et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen

This week has been a long death march. Death to optimism, death to pre-existing notions of political parties, death to futures defined by progressive visions.

Ironically, the march led to today’s 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme — the beginning of World War I and the bloodiest day in British military history. The battle lasted five months and cost a million soldiers’ lives. The British suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day alone as they fought alongside the French against the Germans.

Among the British dead were black soldiers from Britain and British West Indies, and Indian Army Calvary who came from what is now India and Pakistan. The British recruited from South Africa, Egypt, China, and more to replace their losses as the Somme continued.

One hundred years later they have forgotten all of this shared pain and history, along with Winston Churchill’s post-WWII vision of a unified European family, a Pan-European Union which the United Kingdom, United States, and Russia supported.

On that bright and cheery note, have a little Death to Jazz — music which never dies.

Democracy elsewhere
Australians went to the polls on July 2nd for this year’s federal election. They didn’t torture themselves with a year or more of campaign crap, thank goodness. I can’t tell you much of anything about this election except that like the US and UK, there are two major parties running neck-and-neck — the Liberal/National coalition and the Labor party — while the world might hope for Greens to succeed. At least Aussies have more than two major parties to choose from even if they are more colorful than any of ours. Putting aside my flippant attitude, this election has serious consequences for the globe given the need for Australia’s climate change research in spite of its excessive reliance on sales of coal as well as its creeping authoritarian approach toward the internet and surveillance. What policies will the next Aussie government pursue?

Wheels

  • NHTSA launches investigation into fatal autopiloted Tesla crash (Tesla Motors) — OMG if you look at the Florida Highway Patrol report sketch of the accident you’ll immediately grasp what fail this was. This was a really horrific accident. Tesla’s post indicates the sensor read the gap below the semi-truck’s trailer as open space. Jalopnik picks apart the accident; they may be right that the obstruction detection sensor is too low on the vehicle. Besides the fact the driver was completely distracted and watching a movie while on autopilot, something else doesn’t sit right about this crash — like the truck failed to yield, or the car was traveling at too high a rate of speed? Truly a sad situation for the driver’s family and the truck driver.
  • Volkswagen thinks its 3.0L passenger diesel engines can be “fixed” to meet emissions standards (Reuters) — Wait, what? They used “undeclared auxiliary emissions-control devices” on this engine, and not the emissions controls defeat software used in the 2.0L engines, which somehow means they can fix the larger engines. I’ve missed something somewhere along the way because I don’t recall reading about any “auxiliary devices” before now. Color me skeptical.
  • June car sales remain on pace with May, except for Volkswagen (Business Insider) — Dieselgate has really done a number on VW brand here in the U.S.; sales are down 22% for the German automaker over last year. Other brands have picked up the slack, though; the biggest winner is Nissan.

Don’t forget about China
Fourth largest by area, second largest by GDP, and first largest by population, let’s not forget about China!

  • ICYMI: Insurance company to CIA employees bought by Chinese company (Newsweek) — You might want to read Marcy’s piece if you haven’t already. The U.S. really needs to improve the CFIUS review process given this egregious example. It only takes some big iron computing to crunch a match between Wright USA’s business database and other breached databases out there in the cyber-wilds to identify…well, you’re smart. Figure it out.
  • Taiwanese missile mistakenly fired, kills fishing boat captain (IBT) — No words for this, which could have been very ugly. Somebody kept a cool head.
  • Taylor Swift’s love life no longer the subject of Chinese bettors (Billboard) — Chinese government banned the sale of insurance instruments which paid off when celebrity singer/songwriter Swift broke off her romance. Good move, this one, because Swift changes partners like some women change purses and shoes. Don’t waste your money betting on what is surely a PR-driven romance between Swift and the flavor of the month, British film star Tom Hiddleston. (Better off betting on who will be the next James Bond — Hiddleston? Doubtful.)

Party Plans
It’s a long holiday weekend here in the U.S. If you don’t have plans, here’s a few tips.

  • The party moved, dudes; new sandbar this year (Mlive) — Court tossed the monster party held on one of Michigan’s inland lakes because it was monster. This year it’s being held at Wixom Lake instead of Torch Lake. Poor Wixomites; brace yourselves for 1000-plus partiers.
  • Non-Terrible Songs about America (BitchMedia) — This week’s BitchTapes playlist is estrogen driven, a nice even-handed, clear-eyed change of pace for a mellow Fourth of July. Kind of like a hug from your mom or sister who love you in spite of the fact they know only too well you’re a bonehead.
  • Baking cookies for holiday snacking? Don’t eat the raw dough! (Yahoo News) — We’ve always been told raw dough is risky to eat because of uncooked eggs in the batter. But unless you’ve checked yours against the FDA’s recall list, it’s the flour that’s the potential threat. E coli-tainted flour is still in the food system and could be in uncooked dough products. Cook them well, don’t eat them raw.

Holiday mode commences in three, two, one — boom! Because nothing says freedom like incendiary devices at close range!

Wednesday: Get Bach

Summer bug laid me up. I’m indulging in the audio equivalent of tea with honey, lemon, and a shot of something to scare away the bug. A little cello playing by Yo-Yo Ma never fails to make me feel better.

This sweet video is enlightening, didn’t realize Ma had an older sister who was an accomplished musician at a tender age. Worthwhile to watch this week considering the blizzard of arguments about immigrants and refugees here and abroad.

And then for good measure, a second favorite added in the mix — Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman together, performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto Fantasy.

There. I feel a little better already.

Probably better than frustrated House Democrats led by Rep. John Lewis who are engaging in a sit-in protest on House floor demanding a vote on No-Fly-No-Buy gun control. If you want to watch the action, you’ll have to check social media. It’s said House GOP leadership ensured CSPAN cameras were shut off.

Diesel do you

  • Volkswagen streamlining offerings to cut costs, 40 makes on the chopping block (Bloomberg) — This is the old General Motors play that eventually killed Oldsmobile and Pontiac to reduce costs related to duplicative brands. Makes sense, especially if this hatchet job kills passenger diesels. Note the story says a fix may come later — uh-huh, like never? Because VW can’t handle the volume of required repairs OR the lack of actual clean diesel technology, OR both?
  • Testimony in S Korea: VW’s upper management may have ordered regulatory cheats (The Hankyoreh) — Story is focused on emissions controls defeat and approval process, but sound controls were also an issue in South Korea. Were those likewise suppressed by order of VW’s German head office?
  • Former CEO under investigation for securities fraud (Reuters) — Big investors want to know why it took a year for Winterkorn to act after the emissions controls defeat were made public by researchers. Bet there’s a link between Winterkorn’s notification of researchers’ findings and the destruction of emails.

Sigh, cyber, sigh

Wait, what?
Did you know Led Zeppelin is being sued over Stairway to Heaven? Allegedly a key riff in the famous 40-year-old tune was stolen, violating copyright. Forty years. ~smh~

Going back to a recumbent position. Stay braced for the outcome of the sit-in and Brexit vote tomorrow.

Friday: Ball and Chain

This end-of-the-work-week observation is a little different. I’ve posted some not-jazz jazz for your listening pleasure. This piece called Ball and Chain is performed by a loosely joined group of people who worked on development of a subgenre of jazz during the 1990s. It’s called M-base — short for “macro-basic array of structured extemporization” — which relies on improvisation along with non-European elements as jazz does. But its artists’ deliberation in composition combined with a more contemporary flare set this style of music apart from other jazz.

Sample a couple more pieces with a little extra estrogen — Cassandra Wilson’s vocals in You Don’t Know What Love Is, and Geri Allen’s keyboarding here with Esperanza Spalding and Terri Lyne Carrington performing Unconditional Love at a recent Jazz in Marciac festival. Wilson and Allen have both been members of the M-base collective, along with Steve Coleman, Robin Eubanks, Graham Haynes, and Greg Osby. I recommend searching out each of those folks in YouTube to explore their continuation of M-base in their work.

That’s enough to get you through your Friday evening nightcap. You’ll probably need one after this stuff.

Volkswagen’s Dieselgate

Living in a Digital World

  • Twitter says it wasn’t hacked after millions of users’ account data appears online (Bloomberg) — Hey, listen up, boneheads complaining about your Twitter account being locked: 1) Change your password periodically (like every 12 weeks) and 2) DON’T USE THE SAME PASSWORD ON MORE THAN ONE ACCOUNT. Looks like some folks haven’t learned that once one account is breached, more are at risk if they use the same password or a previous iteration from another account. ~smh~ It would take very little to create a database of breached addresses from multiple platforms and compare them for same passwords. If, for example, [123456PW] is used on two known accounts, why wouldn’t a hacker try that same password on other accounts attached to the same email address?
  • Oklahoma state police bought debit card scanning devices (KGOU) — They’re not merely reading account data if they pull you over and take your card to scan for information. They may confiscate any funds attached to the card, too, under civil forfeiture. This is ripe for abuse and overreach, given poor past legal precedent. Why is a magnetic strip any different than your wallet?

Economics of a different kind

  • Economics don’t match reality, and the root of the problem is academic (BloombergView) — Each of “coffee house macro,” finance macro, Fed macro, and academic macroeconomics are grossly out of sync with reality. But the root of this distortion is the one thing they all have in common: their origin in academic economics. Yeah — academia has become little more than an indoctrination factory for the same flawed concepts, while reducing any arguments against the current “free market uber alles” thought regime.
  • Adbusters isn’t waiting for academia; they’re ready to Battle for the Soul of Economics (kickitover.org) — Check it, social media warfare has begun.

That’s a wrap on this week. I’m fixing myself a stiff belt and shuffling off to bed. Catch you Monday, the Fates willing and the creek not rising due to climate change.

Monday Morning: Tarantela [UPDATE]

I could listen to this piece on a loop. It’s Santiago de Murcia’s “Tarantela,” performed by noted lutist Rolf Lislevand. The instrument he is playing is as important as the music and his artistry; it’s an extremely rare Stradivarius guitar called the Sabionari. While tarantellas more commonly feature additional instruments and percussion like tambourines, this instrument is stunning by itself.

You can learn more about the Sabionari at Open Culture, a site I highly recommend for all manner of educational and exploratory content.

And now to dance the tarantella we call Monday.

Wheels

  • What’s the German word for ‘omertà’? Because Volkswagen has it (Forbes) — Besides the use of obfuscation by translation, VW’s culture obstructs the investigation into Dieselgate by way of a “code of silence.” And money. Hush money helps.
  • Growing percentage of VW investors want an independent investigation (WSJ) — An association 25,000 investors now demands an investigation; the problem continues to be Lower Saxony, the Qatar sovereign-wealth fund and the Porsche family, which combined own 92% of voting stock.
  • VW production workers get a 5% pay raise (IBT) — Is this “hush money,” too, for the employees who can’t afford to be retired like VW’s executives? The rationale for the increase seems sketchy since inflation is negligible and VW group subsidiary workers at Audi and Porsche won’t receive a similar raise.
  • Insanity? VW Group a buy opportunity next month (The Street) — Caveat: I am not a stockbroker. This information is not provided for investment purposes. Your mileage may vary. But I think this is absolute insanity, suggesting VW group stock may offer a buy opportunity next month when VW publishes a strategy for the next decade. If this strategy includes the same utterly opaque organization committing fraud to sell vehicles, is it smart to buy even at today’s depressed prices? The parallel made with Apple stock is bizarre, literally comparing oranges to Apples. Just, no.

Bad News (Media)

Cybersec

  • Organized criminals steal $13M in minutes from Japanese ATMs (The Guardian) — And then they fled the country. What?! The mass thefts were facilitated by bank account information acquired from an unnamed South African bank. Both Japan and SA use chip-and-pin cards — so much for additional security. Good thing this organized criminal entity seeks money versus terror. Interesting that the South African bank has yet to be named.(*)
  • Slovenian student receives 15-month suspended sentence for disclosing state-created security problems (Softpedia) — The student at Slovenia’s Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security in Maribor, Slovenia had been investigating Slovenia’s TETRA encrypted communications protocol over the last four years as part of a school project. He used responsible disclosure practices, but authorities did not respond; he then revealed the encrypted comms’ failure publicly to force action. And law enforcement went after him for exposing their lazy culpability hacking them.
  • Related? Slovenian bank intended target for Vietnamese bank’s SWIFT attempted hack funds (Reuters) — Huh. Imagine that. Same country with highly flawed state-owned encrypted communications protocol was the target for monies hackers attempted to steal via SWIFT from Vietnamese TPBank. Surely just a coincidence, right?

Just for the heck of it, consider a lunch read/watch on a recent theory: World War 0. Sounds plausible to me, but this theory seems pretty fluid.

Catch you here tomorrow morning!

* UPDATE — 1:20 P.M. EDT —
Standard Bank reported it had lost 300 million rand, or USD $19.1 million to the attack on Japanese ATMs. First reports in South African media and Reuters were roughly 11 hours ago or 9:00 a.m. Johannesburg local time. It’s odd the name of the affected bank did not get wider coverage in western media, but then South Africa has a problem with disclosing bank breaches. There were five breaches alleged last year, but little public information about them; they do not appear on Hackmageddon’s list of breaches. This offers a false sense of security to South African banking customers and to banks’ investors alike.

Japan Times report attribute the thefts to a Malaysian crime gang. Neither Japan Times nor Manichi mention Standard Bank’s name as the affected South African bank. Both report the thefts actually took place more than a week ago on May 15th — another odd feature about reporting on this rash of well-organized thefts.

Friday Morning: Mi Ritmo

Oye como va
Mi ritmo
Bueno pa gozar
Mulata

— excerpt, Oye Como Va by Tito Puente

This Latin jazz song was on the very first album I owned — Santana’s Abraxas. I have no idea what possessed my father to select this way back in 1971 because he’s not musically inclined. I prefer to think he was persuaded by the music store staff to buy it for me rather than think the cover art did it for him. To this day I don’t dare ask; I’d rather live with my illusion.

Perhaps he simply liked Oye Como Va by Tito Puente and decided I needed it. Maybe that’s what he wanted to listen to when I played the album over and over again, ad nauseam. The song is still easy to listen to even when played by a septuagenarian, isn’t it? Though Puente probably still felt the same way about this song in his last live performance as he did when he first recorded it in 1963.

The personal irony I’m certain my father never considered: the last line is a reference to a mixed race “mulatto” woman. That’s me.

Vamos, amigos!

Wheels

  • South Korea frustrated by Volkswagen’s response to Dieselgate (Yonhap) — Hard to tell how many VW passenger diesel cars with the emissions controls defeat tech have been sold in South Korea to date. Last year’s sales of 35,700 suggest VW needs to exert itself a little more than offer to recall a total 125,000 cars.

Technology Trends

  • Breakthrough in memory technology could change computing dramatically (IBM via YouTube) — I’m still trying to wrap my head around this; could be the simplicity of the underlying science seems so obvious I can’t understand why it wasn’t discovered sooner. Using polycrystalline rather than amorphous material, more data can be stored and in a manner which is stable and not prone to loss when electricity is cut. This technology could replace DRAM at flash memory prices. Imagine how quickly systems could begin processing if they could avoid seeking programs and data.
  • Google’s annual I/O event chary on enterprise computing (ComputerWorld) — Wonder if Google executives’ expressed intent to focus on the enterprise is a veiled threat directed at Oracle? The I/O annual conference didn’t have enough enterprise applications to satisfy the curious; is Google holding back? Or are there pending acquisitions to fill this stated intent, ones not yet ready for publication? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google launch something on par with Salesforce or Zoho very soon. Google Drive components already compete with or are integrated with some of those Zoho offers in its small business offering.
  • Android’s coming to Chromebooks — finally! (Google Blog) — I’ve put off buying another laptop until this happened, guess I’ll look at the first three models on which developers will focus their development. The applications available for Android phones have been mind-boggling in number; it’d be nice to have the same diversity of selection for laptops. And then maybe desktops in the not-too-distant future? That would really make a dent in enterprise computing.

Cybersec

  • Security camera not password protected? Police may be able to tap it (Engadget) — Love the subhead: “Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be for a good cause.” Just add the invisible snark tag. Purdue University researchers found surveillance cameras could be tapped to allow law enforcement to monitor a crime scene. I don’t know about you but this sounds like a backdoor, not a convenient vulnerability. If the police can use it soon, who might already be using it?
  • Qualcomm mobile chip flaw leaves 60% of Android devices exposed (Threatpost) — Not good, especially since this boo-boo may affect both oldest and newest Android versions. But a malicious app is required to take advantage of this flaw, unlike the Stagefright exploit. Android has already issued a patch; the problem is getting it to all affected devices.
  • LinkedIn’s 2012 breach yielded info on more than 100 million accounts (Motherboard) — Only 6.5 million accounts were initially breached — but that’s only the first batch published online. The actual haul from 2012 was at least 117 million accounts, now for sale for a mere five bitcoins or $2200. Are you a LinkedIn user? Time to check Have I Been Pwned? to see if your account is among those in the breach.

Climate Crises

  • Record high temp of 51C (124F) recorded in India (The Register) — Drought continues as well; article notes, “Back in India, relief from the heat is expected when the annual monsoon hits. The cooling rains generally arrive in mid-June.” Except that with a monster El Nino underway, the amount of rain and cooling will depart from average.
  • Polymath Eleanor Saitta considers climate change and comes to some grim, mortal conclusions (Storify by @AnthonyBriggs) — If you’re a policymaker, you’d better worry about dealing effectively with climate refugees and deaths in the millions. Maybe billions. Refugees from Syria will look like a minuscule blip. If you’re not terrified, you should be.

Looks like it’s going to be a lovely late spring weekend here — hope you’re going to have a nice one, too. See you Monday!

Wednesday Morning: Meet Me on the Floor

I admit it, I’ve betrayed my kind. I’ve been remiss in my responsibilities, haven’t been equitable.

To fix that, you need a dose of estrogen, stat. This morning’s medication is Veruca Salt’s Volcano Girls.

Feel better soon, eh?

Wheels
Mitsubishi’s Tetsuro Aikawa to leave, asks Nissan to name replacement (Bloomberg) — Announcement comes six days after Nissan announced it would buy a controlling interest in Mitsubishi. Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn indicated he does not intend to subsume and phase out the Mitsubishi brand; this may have encouraged Aikawa he was leaving the company in good hands. I wouldn’t bet on some overlap between Nissan/Mitsubishi being eliminated.

Suzuki apologized for using the wrong fuel economy tests (Reuters) — Suzuki says it didn’t need to change its declared mileage data based on correct testing. I sure hope independent testing confirms this, though I suspect the same study which revealed Volkswagen’s cheat would have indicated additional validation needed.

Volkswagen says it will focus on profitability, pronto (Bloomberg) — Investors are restless and complaining about VW’s recalcitrance toward cost cutting in light of 16 billion euros it set aside for fixes and claims due to Dieselgate. Executives’ pay is on the butcher’s block. More than a little overdue as VW execs knew about the emissions controls defeat’s detection two years ago.

Forensic scientist reports to NHTSA Chevrolet’s dangerous cruise control problem (Zdziarski’s blog) — PAY ATTENTION TO THIS IF YOU’RE A LATE MODEL CHEVROLET OWNER. Read the linked post; Chevrolet’s response is deplorable, asking drivers to modify behavior rather than supply/fix product to work as documented and sold.

The (Fossil Fuel) Business
Goldman Sachs downgrades stocks to neutral while going bullish on oil (Bloomberg) — I like the subhead on this article: “Too many things to worry about.” ~LOL~ Excess valuation, lower growth, “a wall of stock market worries” encouraged the bear move. Things not explicitly mentioned: the U.S. and Australian elections and Brexit referendum outcome.

But…bullishness on oil out of whack (MarketWatch) — Another LOL-ish subhead today: “The fine print shows Goldman analysts believe oil will struggle to easily top $50.” So GS is telling its clients to reduce excess oil holdings while conditioning overall market to firm up what’s in their clients’ portfolios? ~smh~ Just as above, not mentioned in this take are any elections/referendums.

Note, too, that neither of these reports mentions Iran.

Anadarko Petroleum downgraded to neutral by Credit Suisse (Trade Calls) — You want another confusing take on fossil fuels? Read this article. Supports MarketWatch’s calling out GS on oil, though Anadarko also includes natural gas.

Total SA’s CEO Pouyanne pooh-poohs France’s ban on shale gas (Bloomberg) — Man, this dude is as arrogant as his predecessor. France could simply outlaw any imports without a certificate of origin, and force the industry to figure it out. Yet another article that doesn’t mention Iran, which sits on one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. Pouyanne’s predecessor was cozy with Iran, too. So why all the attitude about North American shale gas imports?

Artificial Intelligence
Hedge fund used AI to pick through Fed Reserve’s minutes (Business Insider) — Using AI gleaned from a competition it hosted, Two Sigma fund analyzed the Fed Reserve. The app used Natural Language Processing and found some interesting trends. Wonder if the results would be different using Google’s SyntaxText open sourced this past week?

NSFWhut?
Cynically opportunistic marketing push promotes so-called ‘anti-Zika’ condoms (IBTImes-AU) — Pharmaco Starpharma Holdings and condom-maker Ansell will give Australia’s Olympians “Dual Protect” condoms lubricated with VivaGel for “almost 100-percent anti-viral protection” against Zika. Never let a perfectly good health crisis go to waste, right?

CDC says any condom will work against Zika (MarketWatch) — Yeah. That. I said this already: condoms are recommended for other viral STIs like herpes and HIV, will work fine for Zika, no special anti-Zika condom required. But you have to use the consistently and for at least six months after exposure to Zika since the virus can remain in men’s reproductive system for at least that long after infection.

ONE company will release condoms in 56 different sizes (Glamour) — Holy schnikes. This is a broader range of sizes than men’s off-the-rack suits. No excuses about not wearing condoms, there will be one bound to fit gents. Would be nice if ONE could hit the market with these in Brazil before the Olympics. (And don’t turn your nose up at Glamour. It’s one of the better articles I read today, includes some good links.)

There’s enough material to get you over the hump. Catch you in the morning tomorrow!

Wednesday Morning: Wandering

This music video is the result of an insomniac walkabout. I went looking for something mellow I hadn’t heard before and tripped on this lovely little indie folk artistry. Not certain why I haven’t heard Radical Face before given how popular this piece is. I like it enough to look for more by the same artist.

Let’s go wandering…

Volkswagen: 3.0L fix in the offing, but too late for EU and the world?

  • New catalytic converter may be part of so-called fix for VW and Audi 3.0L vehicles (Bloomberg) — The financial hit affected dividend as reserve for fix/recall/litigation was raised from 6.7B to 16.2B euros. VW group will not have a full explanation about Dieselgate’s origins and costs to shareholders until the end of 2016.
  • But Netherland’s NO2 level exceeds the 40 microgram threshold in 11 locations, violating EU air pollution standards (DutchNews) — Locations are those with high automobile traffic.
  • UK government shoveled 105,000 pounds down legal fee rat hole fighting air pollution charges (Guardian-UK) — Look, we all know the air’s dirty. Stop fighting the charges and fix the mess.
  • UK’s MPs already said air pollution was a ‘public health emergency’ (Guardian-UK) — It’s killing 40-50,000 UK residents a year. One of the approaches discussed but not yet in motion is a scrapping plan for dirty diesel vehicles.
  • Unfortunately global CO2 level at 400 ppm tipping point, no thanks to VW’s diesel vehicles (Sydney Melbourne Herald) — Granted, VW’s passenger vehicles aren’t the only source, but cheating for nearly a decade across millions of cars played a substantive role.

Mixed government messages about hacking, encryption, and cybersecurity enforcement
Compare: FBI hires a “grey hat” to crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone account, versus FCC and FTC desire for escalated security patching on wireless systems. So which is it? Hacking is good when it helps government, or no? Encryption is not good for government except when it is? How do these stories make any sense?

  • State of Florida prosecuting security researcher after he revealed FL state’s election website was vulnerable (Tampa Bay Times) — Unencrypted site wide-open to SQL “injection attack” allowed research to hack into the site. Florida arrests him instead of saying thanks and fixing their mess.
  • UK court rules hacker does not have to give up password (Guardian-UK) — Computer scientist and hacker activist Lauri Love fights extradition to U.S. after allegedly stealing ‘massive quantities’ of data from Fed Reserve and NASA computers; court ruled he does not have to give up password for his encrypted computers taken into custody last autumn.
  • SWIFT denies technicians left Bangladeshi bank vulnerable to hacking (Reuters) — Tit-for-tat back and forth between Bangladesh Bank and SWIFT as to which entity at fault for exposures to hacking. Funny how U.S. government is saying very little about this when the vulnerability could have been used by terrorists for financing.

Well, it’s not quite noon Pacific time, still morning somewhere. Schedule was off due to insomnia last night; hoping for a better night’s sleep tonight, and a better morning tomorrow. Catch you then!

Wednesday Morning: Woe, Nelly, Woe

I meant woe, not whoa. I do know the difference.

It’s woe I was thinking of when I wrote this next bit.

What would you do if you were told you wouldn’t be paid for last 2 months of a 9-month job?
Let’s say you have kids to feed, a mortgage/car payment/college loan payments to make, childcare to pay, out-of-pocket healthcare costs — you know, all the expenses the average working person has.

In spite of one or more obligatory college degrees, continuing education requirements and mandatory background checks, your job requires you to work in facilities where ‘mushrooms, black mold, fecal matter, dead rodents, no heat‘ are common. It’s a workplace functioning like Flint’s water crisis, and it’s been this way for more than a decade. Fellow employees have had to bring in paper towels and light bulbs from home or solicit them as donations to the workplace.

Because of your employer’s money woes, you may even have made a concession agreeing to collect your pay over 3-4 months instead of the next six to eight weeks you are actually scheduled to work.

And then your employer’s employer says they aren’t going to pay, and you might have to work without pay for the next six weeks. Unpaid, as in violation of labor laws unpaid.

And your employer’s employer has a history of acting both in bad faith and with prejudice. Your workplace hasn’t improved for years; children were permanently poisoned and adults died as a result of their awful handiwork on this and other projects.

What would you do? Quietly stay at your desk working and hope for the best, or walk out in protest to demand action?

The employer’s employer accuses you of all manner of bad things, and is actively undermining your rights to organize, by the way.

Welcome to Detroit Public School system, and welcome to more of Michigan’s obnoxious and toxic GOP-led legislating. Pretty sure the jerks who are causing this latest crisis by grandstanding on teachers’ backs don’t care if the president arrives here in Michigan today.

Dude caught on video sprinkling substance on food arrested by FBI
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about in Michigan, some whackjob has been sprinkling a mixture of hand sanitizer and rodent poison on food in stores, including salad buffets. He was caught on security camera in Ann Arbor, but he is alleged to have sprinkled this mix in multiple stores in Ypsilanti, Saline, Birch Run, and Midland. The mixture is not supposed to be toxic, but who wants to eat remnants of isopropyl alcohol and an anticoagulant? What the hell was this all about anyhow?

Canadian city of 80,000 forced to evacuate overnight due to massive wildfire
Mind-boggling to think of an urban center this size forced to flee on such short notice, but Fort McMurray did just that beginning late afternoon yesterday. Even the local hospital was emptied as fire leaped from undeveloped to developed areas, consuming neighborhoods. 80% of homes in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are ash. Conditions have been unusually warm and dry in the region; the local temperature was 83F degrees before the evacuation notice was issued. Weather conditions today are expected to be hotter (32C/90F) and WSW winds stronger ahead of a cold front, likely spreading the fire even farther to the northeast.

The area around Fort McMurray has only been in moderate drought conditions, yet the fire was explosive, doubling in size in a matter of hours. Can’t begin to imagine what might happen in areas where conditions are drier while this climate-enhanced super El Nino continues.

Volkswagen’s former head of engine and transmission development exits company
Wolfgang Hatz, suspended by VW for his role in Dieselgate, chose voluntarily to leave the company. This bit in NYT’s article is choice:

In 2007, shortly after being named head of engine and transmission development at Volkswagen, Mr. Hatz complained at an event in San Francisco that new rules on tailpipe emissions in California were unrealistic.

“I see it as nearly impossible for us,” Mr. Hatz said of a proposed regulation during the event, which was filmed by an auto website.

In other words, Hatz didn’t see the purpose of the regulation, didn’t perceive a challenge to design truly clean diesel — he saw an obstruction he needed to bypass. Auf wiedersehn, Herr Hatz.

Odds and sods

  • Middle Eastern drought worst in 900 years (NASA) — Drought map of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey looks awful, but Egypt — wow.
  • Wars might be caused by lack of water (Scientific American) — I sense a theme developing…hey, guess when the Crusades were? 900 years ago.
  • Study shows stocks overvalued often, too long (Phys.org) — Huh. Interleaves with economic social theory of reflexivity, that.
  • Third leading cause of death in U.S.: medical errors (Science Daily) — Grok this: 250,000 deaths a year. You’d think insurance companies and policy makers would look into this, considering annual death toll is like ten times that on 9/11. Imagine if we spend tax dollars on fixing this and improving health care instead of militarizing against the rare-to-non-existent domestic terror attack.
  • Tesla’s residential battery, Powerwall, now for sale (Bloomberg) — Residential solar may now explode with growth. We can only hope.

It’s supposedly downhill from the top of this hump. Race you to the bottom!

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