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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.

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.

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?

Friday: Little Fly

Friday jazz comes to us from vocalist and bassist Esperanza Spalding, one of my personal favorites. She’s the first jazz musician to ever win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, awarded only a handful of months after this featured performance from 2010.

My favorite tune of the three she performs here is Apple Blossom — it never fails to make me sniffle. Spalding plays more than just the double bass; sample her more progressive work on electric bass here. Want something a bit more traditional? Try her upbeat bluesy rendition of On the Sunny Side of the Street. Or maybe a little pop rock slice with her tribute to Stevie Wonder, Overjoyed.

Wheels and steals
Volkswagen:

  • Whiny op-ed complains about poor, poor Volkswagen (WSJ) — Aw, poor fraudulent enterprise lied and ripped off the American public for a decade while other automakers in the U.S. complied with emissions laws. Murdoch-NewsCorp outlet Wall Street Journal wants us to take pity on the bastards who did not care one whit they were literally poisoning U.S. citizens while lying to customers and dealers, let alone poisoning and lying to tens of millions of customers abroad. Look, they broke U.S. laws for nearly ten years. They made interest and capital gains on the money they gained from their illegal efforts. They can make the customers they defrauded whole and they can do something to fix the damage they wreaked on our environment. And they should be punished for breaking laws on top of reparations. Anything less is a neoliberal blowjob to a company which cannot compete fairly inside the U.S.
  • VW passenger diesel owners need additional protections (Reuters) — The current settlement offered by VW in federal court does not provide a secondary level of protection to consumers says the consumer advocacy journal, needed if the proposed fix to the emissions cheating diesel vehicles does not work. These vehicle owners should be able to opt for buy-back. The amount offered also undervalues retail prices on alternative replacement vehicles, Consumer Reports said in its submission during the public comment period which ended today.

    Consumer Reports said it generally supported the settlement, but urged “regulators to wield robust oversight of Volkswagen to ensure that the company implements its recall, investment, and mitigation programs appropriately” and it called on “federal and state officials to assess tough civil penalties and any appropriate criminal penalties against the company in order to hold it fully accountable.”

  • South Korea halts sales of 80 VW vehicle models (NBCNews) — This is what the U.S. could have done to VW given the scale of fraud, emissions cheating, and the lack of actual “clean diesel” passenger technology available to remedy both 2.0L and 3.0L engine vehicles. The 80 models now banned for non-compliance with emissions and noise pollution laws as well as document forgery include VW, Audi and Bentley vehicles. VW has also been slapped with $16.06 million fine, which is extremely light considering VW broke not only emissions laws while fraudulently misrepresenting the vehicles’ attributes.
  • West Virginia’s suit against VW amended (Hastings Tribune) — WVa Attorney General expanded the suit to include VW parent group as well as Audi and Porsche brands. Bosch, the manufacturer of VW’s electronic control units which were programmed to defeat emissions controls, is included in the lawsuit.
  • Fewer Americans buying VW vehicles (Business Insider) — No surprise, given the emissions controls cheating scandal, the pricey labels, iffy reliability, and a product lineup that doesn’t match the U.S.’ market demand. It may be a long time before VW digs itself out of its hole here.

NOT Volkswagen:

  • Two Houston thieves hack Jeep and Dodge cars (Phys.org) — Hacking pirated computer software used by auto technicians and dealers, two men tweaked Fiat Chrylser model vehicles’ security codes so their key worked. The thieves were picked up driving a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee after police focused on an area where a high number of vehicle thefts occured.
  • White hat hackers proved Chrysler’s anti-hack update breachable (The Register) — Last year Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek showed Fiat Chrysler’s wireless feature could be hacked remotely to take control of a car. At Black Hat 2016 this week the same duo showed how they could defeat Fiat Chrysler’s firmware update which the automaker pushed to patch the vulnerability. But in terms of ease and speed, the two thieves in Houston might actually have a faster approach to taking control of a vehicle.
  • 28-year-old cracks up his brother’s car while playing Pokémon GO (The Guardian) — Dude. Really? You’re lucky to be alive or that you didn’t kill someone else. This is the kind of generational stupid old-man-yelling-at-clouds Clint Eastwood should take a poke at instead of doubling down on his closeted racism.
  • Self-driving feature in Tesla X may have saved its driver (CNBC) — Driver suffered a pulmonary embolism while on the road; the vehicle took him to the hospital. Article says the driver “was able to steer the car the last few meters” suggesting he was conscious and in control if limited in capacity. No further details were included to describe how the vehicle switched from its original route to the hospital.

Because opening ceremonies begin tonight at the Rio Olympics, I’ll leave you here. Catch you Monday — have a safe and restful weekend!

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.

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