Last month, I wrote about Amazon’s new concept for a grocery store, Amazon Go, where you would be able to walk in, pick up what you want, and leave, as computers and sensors track you and your phone’s every move. I argued that it, combined with increasingly algorithmic social media platforms, apps that can apparate anything you desire at the push of a button, and chatbots that depersonalize the experience of dealing with companies points to a bleak future where we won’t have to talk to or hear from anyone we don’t want to.
But sitting frustrated late last night along with 200 other humans at Las Vegas’s McCarran Airport after our flight to New York was canceled, I realized a worse future may already be here: We, in the US at least, live in a world where we often can’t talk to humans, even when we want to.
Even behind bars, Bernie Madoff is still the master of monopolizing people’s money. The business he ran from prison, however, is vastly more legit than the multibillion-dollar con that landed him a 150-year sentence.
According to Steve Fishman, the host of Ponzi Supernova, a new Audible audio series focused on the disgraced former money manager, Madoff found much success steering his talents to the prison supply of Swiss Miss.
“At one point, he cornered the hot chocolate market,” Fishman told MarketWatch. “He bought up every package of Swiss Miss from the commissary and sold it for a profit in the prison yard. … He made it so that, if you wanted any, you had to go through Bernie.”
They liked him so much they made him judge of the puppy kicking contest.
Google has published an Infrastructure Security Design Overview that explains how it secures the cloud it uses for its own operations and for public cloud services.
Revealed last Friday, the document outlines six layers of security and reveals some interesting factoids about the Alphabet subsidiary’s operations, none more so than the disclosure that: “We also design custom chips, including a hardware security chip that is currently being deployed on both servers and peripherals. These chips allow us to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google devices at the hardware level.”
That silicon works alongside cryptographic signatures employed “over low-level components like the BIOS, bootloader, kernel, and base operating system image.”
“Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
A local Connecticut Republican politician has been arrested for allegedly grabbing a female in the groin area without her consent.
According to the Wesport Daily Voice, Greenwich Representative Town Meeting board member Christopher von Keyserling was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault and was released on $2,500 bond. He’s due to appear in court on January 25.
In December of 2016, Keyserling engaged in a “political argument” with a woman and allegedly declared, “I love this new world. I no longer have to be politically correct.” As the woman turned to walk away, Keyserling reportedly reach from behind and placed his hand between her legs and pinched on or near her genital area.
On cross-examination, I established that:
– He was not present at the time of the alleged violation.
– He has no photographic evidence of the driver.
– There were no witnesses.
– He does not know where Adam MacLeod was at the time of the alleged violation.
And so on. I then asked the question one is taught never to ask on cross—the last one. “So, you signed an affidavit under the pains and penalties of perjury alleging probable cause to believe that Adam MacLeod committed a violation of traffic laws without any evidence that was so?”
Without hesitating he answered, “Yes.” This surprised both of us. It also surprised the judge, who looked up from his desk for the first time. A police officer had just testified under oath that he perjured himself in service to a city government and a mysterious, far-away corporation whose officers probably earn many times his salary.
The city then rested its case. I renewed my motion to dismiss, which the judge immediately granted.
At war with the US intelligence agencies he compares to Nazi Germany, damning them for leaking an unverified dossier on his alleged links with Moscow, Donald Trump’s bizarre press conference left the world agog. What if the Russians have so well destabilised America that no sooner inaugurated, their chosen president has to be impeached? Don’t count on it. Ordinary rules don’t apply to the man who is the raw spirit of the lawless wild west.
And Trump’s nature was never a secret. He has never dissembled, he can’t dissemble. Why would he when he worships every aspect of himself, each hair on his head, each word he tweets? Greater self-love hath no man.
Apart from his lost good looks, he is unchanged since I interviewed him for the Guardian back in 1988. He was 41 and in Britain to plug his book, The Art of the Deal. Then as now, he was a petrifying megalomaniac with no grip on reality, or not a reality shared by others. At the time I described his “demonic power and energy waiting to spring”. Now look how far he has sprung.
I wrote about his aura of “glitz, greed, glamour and an ambition so colossal that it will probably not rest until he rules the world – which one day he just might”. And next week, God help us, he will.
Here is that 1988 article.
For some on Wall Street, one executive told Newsweek, they have created a new strategy betting on “Trump slumps”, in which traders watch television news reports for a corporate development that might anger Donald Trump and then, in hopes he will tweet mean things, enter short-term trades where they would profit if the company’s stock price falls.
All of these extraordinary events are the result of government by Twitter, a bizarre new world where an internet communications platform combines with an impulsive president-elect to create global chaos in investment markets, overseas halls of power and domestic agencies. In the morning or afternoon or the middle of night, Trump delivers 140-character proclamations on policy and piffle in arbitrary flashes of power and spite that shoot across the virtual firmament without warning. Discussions and debates about their content in the news media and on the internet follow for a few hours – Why can’t flag burning be banned? Why is a new Air Force One being built? – before moving on, unresolved, to another Trump topic d’Tweet.
“These devices don’t recognize your specific voice and so then we have the situations where you have a guest staying or you have a child who is talking and accidentally order something because the device isn’t aware that it’s a child versus a parent,” said Stephen Cobb, senior security researcher for ESET North America.
Which is exactly what happened today during CW6 in the morning when Jim Patton and Lynda Martin were talking about a child who accidentally bought a dollhouse and four pounds of cookies
“I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,’” said Patton.
As soon as Patton said that, viewers all over San Diego started complaining their echo devices had tried to order doll houses. It’s a common problem experts say can be avoided.
I think I’ve avoided it just fine…
US president-elect Donald Trump’s freshly minted cyber-tsar Rudy Giuliani runs a website with a content management system years out of date and potentially utterly hackable.
Former New York City mayor and Donald loyalist Giuliani was today unveiled by Trump’s transition team as the future president’s cybersecurity adviser – meaning Giuliani will play a crucial role in the defense of America’s computer infrastructure.
Giulianisecurity.com, the website for the ex-mayor’s eponymous infosec consultancy firm, is powered by a roughly five-year-old build of Joomla! that is packed with vulnerabilities. Some of those bugs can be potentially exploited by miscreants using basic SQL injection techniques to compromise the server.
This seemingly insecure system also has a surprising number of network ports open – from MySQL and anonymous LDAP to a very out-of-date OpenSSH 4.7 that was released in 2007.
“It speaks volumes,” Tentler told The Register, referring to Giuliani’s computer security credentials, or lack of, and fitness for the top post.
“Seventy-year-old luddite autocrats who often brag about not using technology are somehow put in charge of technology: it’s like setting our country on fire and giving every extranational hacker a roman candle – or, rather, not setting on fire, but dousing in gasoline.”
“We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars,” reads the Sleeping Giants profile. “Many companies don’t even know it’s happening. It’s time to tell them.” They say it’s not about taking away Breitbart’s right to free speech, but about giving consumers and advertisers control over where their money goes. The group’s Twitter page offers a simple set of instructions to anyone who wants to follow suit. Step 1: “Go to Breitbart and take a screenshot of an ad next to some of their content.” Step 2: “Tweet the screenshot to the company with a polite, nonoffensive note.”
The activists’ back-and-forth with companies reveals a fog of confusion surrounding online advertising. Many organizations have no idea that their ads may end up next to content they find abhorrent.
You might blame this — in part — on robots. According to the research firm eMarketer, American companies are now spending more than $22 billion a year on “programmatic ads,” the kind of advertising that is bought with little human oversight. Joshua Zeitz, vice president of corporate communications at the ad-tech company AppNexus, explained to me how this automated ad buying works. When you click on a link, “in less than a second, a call goes out, and algorithms and automated software bid in an auction to put their advertisement up on your page,” he said. “So maybe the Nabisco algorithm wants to put an ad up there; so does Macy’s and so does Honda.” The algorithm that places the highest bid wins the chance to appear on your screen.
Programmatic ads can also follow individuals around the internet, based on their browsing history, as happened with Mr. Philips. A single targeted ad could cost just a fraction of a penny, but the pennies add up to a billion-dollar industry.
The amendments proposed by the Democrats and defeated by the Republicans were designed to put the majority on the wrong side of the most popular aspects of the law. It was really all they had left, but, in six months, when all those people who voted for the president-elect secure in the knowledge that he’d never do what he promised to do, discover that their pre-existing conditions suddenly matter again, the odds are that they will blame themselves or The Government or liberals or Barack Obama and nobody will remember how the mugging happened, and the rain will wash away the chalk outline of the victim from the sidewalk. And the death of the Affordable Care Act will become a cold case, an unsolved mystery mouldering in a pauper’s grave.
It’s heartwarming to know that the president-elect is so concerned about how fake news can destroy real people. If only he had the self-awareness and self-discipline to live by his own words.
A Dutch vegan who applied for a Swiss passport has had her application rejected because the locals found her too annoying.
McDonald’s hooks us by appealing to our bodies’ craving for certain flavors; Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter hook us by delivering what psychologists call “variable rewards.” Messages, photos, and “likes” appear on no set schedule, so we check for them compulsively, never sure when we’ll receive that dopamine-activating prize. (Delivering rewards at random has been proved to quickly and strongly reinforce behavior.) Checking that Facebook friend request will take only a few seconds, we reason, though research shows that when interrupted, people take an average of 25 minutes to return to their original task.
A Facebook spokesperson told me the social network focuses on maximizing the quality of the experience—not the time its users spend on the site—and surveys its users daily to gauge success. In response to this feedback, Facebook recently tweaked its News Feed algorithm to punish clickbait—stories with sensationalist headlines designed to attract readers. (LinkedIn and Instagram declined requests for comment. Twitter did not reply to multiple queries.)
Even so, a niche group of consultants has emerged to teach companies how to make their services irresistible. One such guru is Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, who has lectured or consulted for firms such as LinkedIn and Instagram. A blog post he wrote touting the value of variable rewards is titled “Want to Hook Your Users? Drive Them Crazy.” While asserting that companies are morally obligated to help those genuinely addicted to their services, Eyal contends that social media merely satisfies our appetite for entertainment in the same way TV or novels do, and that the latest technology tends to get vilified simply because it’s new, but eventually people find balance.
Smart electricity meters, of which there are more than 100m installed around the world, are frequently “dangerously insecure”, a security expert has said.
The lack of security in the smart utilities raises the prospect of a single line of malicious code cutting power to a home or even causing a catastrophic overload leading to exploding meters or house fires, according to Netanel Rubin, co-founder of the security firm Vaultra.
“Reclaim your home,” Rubin told a conference of hackers and security experts, “or someone else will.”
The most powerful publication in the world today is Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account. In the past six weeks, it has moved markets, conducted shadow foreign policy, and reshaped the focus of media around the world. Just today, it caused Toyota’s stock to drop. It is also shockingly insecure.
That insecurity was acceptable when @realDonaldTrump concerned itself with Kristen Stewart cheating on Robert Pattinson and how thin people don’t drink Diet Coke. And yet Trump’s newfound influence — combined with the unpredictability of his tweets — makes the president-elect’s account a particularly tempting target for hackers.
That’s especially true because there is a large fortune that could be made in a single 140-character message. If someone were able to gain access to Trump’s Twitter, they could tweet approvingly or disapprovingly about a company (as Trump has done) and play the stock market accordingly — or cause others to do so. A market-tracking app called Trigger has already set up an alert that responds whenever Trump tweets about publicly traded companies.
An alarming report issued by heads of the U.S. intelligence agencies on Friday asserts that the Twitter account of President-elect Donald Trump was successfully hacked by a four-year-old child.
Profilers and cryptologists who studied Trump’s Twitter feed believe that the account was first hacked during the 2016 campaign, when the child was three.
“The hacker would often wake up in the middle of the night, in an addled and cranky state, and start tweeting,” an intelligence source said. “This disrupted sleep pattern is consistent with a suspect in the three-to-four-year-old age range.”
N.S.A. analysts who studied the vocabulary, syntax, and spelling of the tweets “determined beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the work of a preschooler,” the source said.
While the intelligence agencies have yet to determine the identity of the hacker, the source stressed that a four-year-old capable of hacking the President-elect’s Twitter account poses “a serious national-security threat.”
“Based on these tweets, this particular four-year-old has a loose grasp on reality, lacks all impulse control, and is potentially very dangerous.”
Mnuchin, the former CEO of OneWest, was already facing challenges in his upcoming Senate confirmation hearings on account of his bank’s ruthless foreclosure practices, ranging from locking out one homeowner during a Minneapolis blizzard to foreclosing on another over a 27-cent payment shortfall.
“After years peddling the kind of dangerous mortgage-backed securities that eventually blew up the economy, Mnuchin swooped in after the crash to take a second bite out of families by aggressively – and sometimes illegally – foreclosing on their homes,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a statement last month. Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, warned: “Given Mr. Mnuchin’s history of profiting off the victims of predatory lending, I look forward to asking him how his Treasury Department would work for Americans who are still waiting for the economic recovery to show up in their communities.”
The consistent violations of California foreclosure processes outlined in the memo would indicate that Mnuchin’s bank didn’t merely act callously, but did so with blatant disregard for the law.
Or build your own:
Ever since we got electrical power, there have been weight-loss gadgets that depend on vibration. They don’t work; you can’t vibrate fat away. That doesn’t mean these gadgets can’t be fun. Two little boys found one out for demonstration in a store and decided to try it out. One was overcome with the ridiculousness of it all. The other discovered what vibrating will do to your voice. Then the first kid found that so funny that he literally ROFLed.
And they’ll make a move for 2016:
Leia Organa, the politician and revolutionary who led the defeat of the Galactic Empire, died after a short illness. She was 60 years old. Hers was a life laced with controversy concerning everything from her tactics to her very ancestry, but her intelligence, commitment to the Republican cause, and place at the heart of the Rebellion, and later the Resistance against Neo-Imperialism, remains the indisputable core of her legacy.
Most historians now see the Stardust/DS-class superweapons as relatively minor parts of the Empire’s war machine (The Imperial-class Star Destroyer remained the primary engine of its force-projection capabilities), but Organa demonstrated the importance of stymieing these and similar efforts through her landmark analysis of the Empire’s ideology and political economy. Later published as The Head of Clay: Elitism, Warlordism and Weakness in the Galactic Empire, her papers proved that as competition for political prestige motivated the Empire’s factions, they would necessarily centralize power, organizing capital in progressively less efficient “superprojects:” initiatives a clique could explain to the Emperor and his inner circle in simple, direct terms, and control through a centralized command structure. Superprojects caught the eye of the inner circle, while more complex proposals (such as Holonet infrastructure improvements) and those requiring cross-clique cooperation (such as maintaining Clone Wars era advanced military technologies) fell by the wayside.
The superprojects trend began during the Palpatinian Republic (and possibly earlier, if GAOR clone forces could be considered one of them), reaching an early peak in Stardust/DS-1 itself, a massive undertaking that consumed 1% of GaDP over nearly two decades. Alliance attacks on superprojects inflicted devastating economic damage and often led to the death and capture of key Imperial influencers, who preferred to personally supervise their work in case a competitor attempted to sabotage or seize control of it. Each attack made the Empire more reliant on successor superprojects to recoup losses and keep systems dependent on its common economy, but each failure prompted peripheral worlds to secede and escape the fallout. Although it would later become famous as a verse in Interstellar People’s War, Organa first explained her doctrine’s essence to Wilhuf Tarkin himself: “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” Yet the Empire remained locked into the cycle, to the point where the Emperor personally commanded a successor to Stardust/DS-1 in the hope that this economic necessity would at least create a viable terror weapon.
The Organa Doctrine is widely believed to have won the Galactic Civil War.
Study English pronunciation. I will teach you in my verse Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse. I will keep you, Suzy, busy, Make your head with heat grow dizzy. Tear in eye, your dress will tear. So shall I! Oh hear my prayer. Pray, console your loving poet, Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! Just compare heart, beard, and heard, Dies and diet, lord and word, Sword and sward, retain and Britain. (Mind the latter, how it's written.) Now I surely will not plague you With such words as plaque and ague. But be careful how you speak: Say break and steak, but bleak and streak; Cloven, oven, how and low, Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe. (source)