Wednesday Morning: Otherwise Known as Mike-Mike-Mike Day

My condolences to the poor Mikes among us who have suffered every Hump Day since Geico’s TV commercial became so popular.

North Korean nuclear test detected by ‘earthquake’
About 10:00 a.m. North Korean local time Wednesday, an event measured at 5.1 on Richter scale occurred near the site of recent underground nuclear testing. South Korea described the “earthquake” as “man-made” shortly after. Interestingly, China called it a “suspected explosion” — blunt language for China so early after the event.

NK’s Kim Jong Un later confirmed a “miniaturized hydrogen nuclear device” had been successfully tested. Governments and NGOs are now studying the event to validate this announcement. The explosion’s size calls the type of bomb into question — was this a hydrogen or an atomic weapon?

I’m amused at the way the news dispersed. While validating the story, I searched for “North Korea earthquake”; the earliest site in the search was BNO News (a.k.a. @BreakingNews) approximately 45 minutes after the event, followed 17 minutes later by Thompson Reuters Foundation. Not Reuters News, but the Foundation, and only the briefest regurgitation of an early South Korean statement. Interesting.

Spies’ ugly deaths
Examining the deaths of spies from 250 AD to present, Lapham’s Quarterly shows us how very cruel humans remain toward each other over the last millennia. Clearly, vicious deaths have not foiled the use of spies.

Zika virus outbreak moves Brazil to caution women against pregnancy now
An outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Brazil may be linked to a sizeable uptick in microcephalic births — 2782 this past year, compared to 150 the previous year. The Brazilian government is now cautioning women to defer pregnancy until the end of the rainy season when the virus’ spread has been slowed.

Compared to number of Ebola virus cases in 2014-2015, Zika poses a much greater risk in terms of spread and future affected population. The virus has not received much attention, in spite of more than a million cases in Brazil, as symptoms among children and adults are relatively mild.

BCP now available in Oregon over the counter
Thanks to recent state legislation, women in Oregon now have greater access to birth control pills over the counter. California will soon implement the same legislation.

That’s one way of reducing the future number of white male libertarian terrorists demanding unfettered use of public space and offerings of snacks.

Microsoft’s tracking users’ minutes in Windows 10
No longer content with tracking the number of devices using Windows operating system, Microsoft now measures how long each user spends in Windows 10. Why such granular measures? The company won’t say.

Worth remembering two things: 1) Users don’t *own* operating system software — they’re licensees; 2) Software and system holes open to licensors may be holes open to others.

New cross-platform ransomware relies on JavaScript*
Won’t matter whether users run Windows, Linux, Apple’s Mac OS: if a device runs JavaScript, it’s at risk for a new ransomware infection. Do read the article; this malware is particularly insidious because it hides in legitimate code, making it difficult to detect for elimination. And do make sure you keep backup copies of critical files off your devices in case you’re hit by this ransomware.

Buckle up tight in your bobsled. It’s all downhill after lunch, kids.

[* this word edited to JavaScript from Java./Rayne]

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
17 replies
  1. haarmeyer says:

    Two comments:
    1) The North Korean government is claiming their detonation was of a hydrogen (as in thermonuclear or fusion) bomb. Underground tests are usually detected elsewhere by seismic activity at a known test site, which this was. Why the suspicion? There was footage of the North Korean news announcing the blast.
    2) The Zika virus outbreak in Brazil isn’t receiving as much attention as the West African ebola outbreak in 2014 to the present because it isn’t as deadly it isn’t as out of control, and it isn’t the same size crisis. No dark motives at all.

    • Rayne says:

      1) You clearly didn’t read any news articles, including the one I linked. The word “miniaturized” (which I made sure to include in my post) is critical. Don’t ask questions about stuff you can’t be arsed to read.


      2) Did you even read this bit in my post?

      The virus has not received much attention, in spite of more than a million cases in Brazil, as symptoms among children and adults are relatively mild.

      I made no comment at all about “dark motives.”

      Brazil’s microcephaly explosion demonstrates Zika’s power. But you’d know that if you read the linked article wrt birth defects. I’ll point out here that the number of microcephaly cases in Brazil during 2015 is ~300 greater than the number of deaths from Ebola in Guinea during the same timeframe. Average incidence of microcephalic births in U.S. is about 400 a year, for further comparison (Brazil’s population is about 30% smaller than U.S., generally has lower incidence of microcephaly than U.S.)

      And we have mosquitoes year-round in tropical areas — including southern-most Florida, Hawaii, and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico — making Zika’s spread a concern to U.S. policymakers even though it doesn’t offer the so-compelling feature of grisly, bloody death.

      • haarmeyer says:

        1) Actually, I did. The word “minaturized” is in the articles because what it means to have a thermonuclear device as opposed to a fissile device, and what it means to have it minaturized, is that they can put it in a warhead, and that it will have a greater impact per size than a fissile device. I watched several newscasts, and read several articles. Don’t assume I am ignorant because I don’t agree with your interpretation of it.

        2) This year, the influenza virus(es) will infect approximately 20,000,000 people in the United States. It will kill about 30,000+ people. It is not as deadly (not as virulent to be specific), not as out of control, and not the same size crisis as the West Africa ebola epidemic of 2014 to the present. It dwarfs what your figures are for Brazil, however. It’s getting about zero coverage right now.

        We have a relative of the Zika virus here in California, called West Nile virus, which Public Health Vector Control monitors on a daily and monthly basis during mosquito season and takes preventive measures on. All of those of us trained and working with or in the EMS system here are required to know the symptoms, whenever we see anything that looks at all suspicious we refer patients to further diagnosis, testing, and treatment, and all the hospitals, all the clinics, and all the private practices do the same.

        I get weekly reports from Vector Control (unofficial, one of my co-workers works there) on any aedes or anophelus presence and any dead animals or human infections in ours and adjoining counties. No. It isn’t spreading like wildfire, yes, there are people working on keeping it that way, no, the sky isn’t falling while our government does nothing about it.

        • Rayne says:

          1) As per my response to Jerryy: The question at the time this post was drafted was whether NK had tested a miniature H-bomb, or a normal A-bomb, given the size of the explosion. NK is hardly credible.

          2) West Nile Virus vs Zika: Cheezits, really? As you should already know, WNV is not known to produce birth defects, and the long-term effects of infection are still being studied, mostly neurological. WNV also has a very low mortality rate, affecting immune compromised individuals more than the rest of the public. In 16 years, there were +1700 deaths in US from WNV [pdf]. The question before the public and policymakers is whether to take Zika-caused birth defects as seriously as either Ebola or WNV deaths.

          • haarmeyer says:

            1) No it wasn’t. Nobody thought they tested a miniature bomb. They said they’d tested a miniaturized bomb. It’s not the same thing. The story broke yesterday afternoon (PST). There isn’t a what was known at the time problem.

            2) Both West Nile and Zika (and dengue and some others) are flaviviruses, so they are related. These two have similar transmission vectors — aedes mosquitoes. They have similar early signs and symptoms. The vectors are indeed being monitored where I am. YMMV. Monitoring includes examining dead animals (usually birds), it includes keeping track of reported cases, it includes analyzing samples, it includes trapping insects and testing them. It includes other things as well, having to do with maintaining maps of tested areas surrounding any known occurrences, tracing back contacts with known occurrences, and how to expand those areas and preventive measures like ordering fogging and all sorts of other things.

            I’m mystified as to what counts as not taking the virus as seriously as other viruses. If CDC says there is a reason to alter behavior in a particular region of the U.S. they issue an advisory, a notice, or an alert, or some combination of the three. If our local PHD believes that measures need to be taken locally, we get notices, advisories and alerts from them, or they are listed on their web page. Currently they have advisories for people who have traveled about chikungunya and dengue. There is also a notice to clinicians about it. Maybe they will update at some point about zika but so far they haven’t. Are you saying that you know that they aren’t doing that and that they should have? On what data?

  2. bloopie2 says:

    Examining the deaths of spies from 250 AD to present, Lapham’s Quarterly shows us how very cruel humans remain toward each other over the last millennia. Clearly, vicious deaths have not foiled the use of spies.
    .
    In the recent season finale of Homeland, Saul (CIA) had Alison (exposed Russian spy) executed along with her two drivers before Alison could return to Russia. The final few episodes of the season really turned me (in the show’s plot lines) against our “Homeland” spy agencies, even to the point where I fleetingly hoped Berlin would blow, and this last set of murders took the cake. Do you happen to know if such actions are common or acceptable or doable today, in real life? Are the spies still that cruel?

  3. Jerryy says:

    .
    Just a quick question and an observation…
    .
    Are not ‘hydrogen weapons’ also ‘atomic weapons’? :)
    .
    Java is not the same as JavaScript. They are two very different languages that only have some letters in their name. JavaScript runs on your machine without needing Java, and vice-versa.
    .

    • Rayne says:

      1) Hydrogen vs atomic: No, they are not the same. Atomic bombs rely on fission, while H-bombs rely on fission and fusion. H-bombs are far more powerful than atomic bombs. The nomenclature distinguishing them is standard, and the same distinction used in the linked article. The question at the time this post was drafted was whether NK had tested a miniature H-bomb, or a normal A-bomb, given the size of the explosion.

      2) Java vs JavaScript: Corrected subhead, meant JavaScript as written in the post’s text.

  4. Jonah Horowitz says:

    Java and JavaScript are actually completely different things. Confusing, but true. A JavaScript vulnerability is probably more serious since all browsers use it to render content. Java is blocked by most browsers by default these days, and at the very least causes a warning prompt before running.

  5. haarmeyer says:

    Actually, the question is whether or not the detonation, assumed to be (because there is no reason to assume otherwise) of a bomb that was intended to be an H-bomb, succeeded, or whether just the “A-bomb” portion of it detonated. The yield was consistent with the yields on previous NK nuclear (fissile) weapons.

    To detonate an H-bomb, you need to detonate an A-bomb which compresses the hydrogen to start the fusion. Hence if the second stage failed to take place, you would be left with an ordinary fission bomb reaction, which would still cause the tremors monitored internationally, but would not be a remarkable yield. The bomb detonated yesterday had the yield of the Hiroshima bomb approximately.

    Minaturization is the process which has to happen to convert a concept nuclear (or any other) device into a device that can go on a missile as a warhead. All our (and anybody else’s) nuclear and thermonuclear missile warheads are “minaturized.” It doesn’t mean that the H-bomb the Koreans built is small for an H-bomb, it means that it was consistent with size and weight requirements to put it on top of one of their ballistic missiles, as opposed to just being a test to see if they could make a thermonuclear explosion at all.

  6. lefty665 says:

    From the original Microsoft publication linked by the link you provided:
    .
    “One of the ways we measure our progress with Windows 10 is looking at how people are using Windows. Recently we reached another milestone – people have spent over 11 billion hours on Windows 10 in December alone, spending more time on Windows than ever before.”
    .
    “looking at how people are using Windows” Is there any reason to think this does not imply logging apps in use or go to the level of a keylogger? There is no technical barrier, and enabling logging could be as simple as a policy decision driven by marketing or risk management.

  7. Les says:

    On NHK, they said the explosion was comparable to a 6kt bomb and a hydrogen bomb would be 50-60 kt. The magnitiude of the explosion today has been sensed in a prior test.

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