DNA Lounge update

DNA Lounge update, wherein it's the Incident Report of the Week!
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Thoughts and Prayers and NRA Funding

Since the New York Times seems to specialize in bemused puff-piece profiles of nazis these days, it always surprises me when it gets its head out of its butt and does actual data-driven reporting, like this incredibly long calendar-based infographic full of un-checked checkboxes:

What Congress Has Accomplished Since the Sandy Hook Massacre:

More than five years have passed since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed. In that time, dozens of gun control proposals have been introduced in Congress attempting to fix glaring issues with gun safety and regulation. More than 1,600 mass shootings have taken place in America since then.

Here is a guide to what Congress has -- or, more accurately, has not -- accomplished during this time.

Or this, from a few months ago:

Thoughts and Prayers and NRA Funding:

Most Americans support stronger gun laws -- laws that would reduce deaths. But Republicans in Congress stand in the way. [...] Below are the top 10 career recipients of N.R.A. funding -- through donations or spending to benefit the candidate -- among both current House and Senate members, along with their statements about the Las Vegas massacre. These representatives have a lot to say about it. All the while, they refuse to do anything to avoid the next massacre.

  1. John McCain, Ariz. -- "Cindy & I are praying for the victims of the terrible #LasVegasShooting & their families." $7,740,521

  2. Richard Burr, N.C. -- "My heart is with the people of Las Vegas and their first responders today. This morning's tragic violence has absolutely no place here in America." $6,986,620

  3. Roy Blunt, Mo. -- "Saddened by the tragic loss of life in #LasVegas. My thoughts are with all of the families affected by this horrific attack." $4,551,146

  4. Thom Tillis, N.C. -- "Susan and I send our deepest condolences and prayers to the families of the victims of this horrific and senseless tragedy in Las Vegas." $4,418,012

  5. Cory Gardner, Co. -- "My family and I are praying for the families of those injured and killed in Las Vegas last night." $3,879,064

  6. Marco Rubio, Fla. -- "I'm praying for all the victims, their families, and our first responders in the #LasVegas #MandalayBay shooting." $3,303,355

  7. Joni Ernst, Iowa -- "My prayers are with all of the victims in Las Vegas, and their loved ones affected by this senseless act of violence." $3,124,273

  8. Rob Portman, Ohio -- "Jane & I mourn the loss of innocent lives in this horrific attack in Las Vegas last night. We are praying for those taken from us, their families & all those injured in this attack." $3,061,941

  9. Todd Young, Ind. -- "We must offer our full support to the victims and their families as our nation mourns." $2,896,732

  10. Bill Cassidy, La. -- "Following closely the horrendous act of violence in Las Vegas. Our prayers are with those who were injured, killed and their families." $2,861,047

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The Body Trade

Demand for body parts from America -- torsos, knees and heads -- is high in countries where religious traditions or laws prohibit the dissection of the dead.

MedCure shipments are now the subject of a federal investigation. In November, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the company's Portland headquarters. Though the search warrant remains sealed, people familiar with the matter say it relates in part to overseas shipping. [...]

In 2012, MedCure opened its European hub in Amsterdam. Since then, MedCure has sent to the Netherlands at least six refrigerated cargo containers filled with frozen human remains, manifest records show. The first container -- 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, 9.5 feet tall -- departed the Port of Tacoma in Washington state in July 2012. The body parts weighed about 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg) and were valued at $259,210. [...]

On November 1, as Daniel Gallegos' head and the heads of six other donors were returning from Israel to UTN in Arizona for cremation, someone noticed a discrepancy on the shipping documents. According to records reviewed by Reuters, the shipping manifest described the contents as "electronics" valued at $10 each. A label on the coffin-sized package described the contents as human remains.

Government records show that border officials were troubled that the package appeared punctured and a strong smell was wafting from the box. They also demanded death certificates to ensure that the specimens were disease-free, records show. One of the donors, records show, carried staphylococcus aureus, an infection the CDC website says poses a potentially serious risk to healthcare workers.

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Match Ball

"I was playing around with matches one day and thought about how the heads of matches are slightly larger than the bodies. It got me wondering what would happen if I started gluing them together and never stopped."


"And here is our final result. Green has turned to black, potential has turned to spent, and I am never doing this again."

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Thiel's Apocalyptic Death Cult

What I assume the cover of The Sovereign Individual looks like.
Or maybe this.
"Less a person than a shell company for a diversified portfolio of anxieties about the future":

Thiel is in one sense a caricature of outsized villainy: he was the only major Silicon Valley figure to put his weight behind the Trump presidential campaign; he vengefully bankrupted a website because he didn't like how they wrote about him; he is known for his public musings about the incompatibility of freedom and democracy, and for expressing interest -- as though enthusiastically pursuing the clunkiest possible metaphor for capitalism at its most vampiric -- in a therapy involving transfusions of blood from young people as a potential means of reversing the ageing process. But in another, deeper sense, he is pure symbol: less a person than a shell company for a diversified portfolio of anxieties about the future, a human emblem of the moral vortex at the centre of the market. [...]

If I wanted to understand the extreme ideology that underpinned Thiel's attraction to New Zealand, he insisted, I needed to understand an obscure libertarian manifesto called The Sovereign Individual: How to Survive and Thrive During the Collapse of the Welfare State. It was published in 1997, and in recent years something of a minor cult has grown up around it in the tech world, largely as a result of Thiel's citing it as the book he is most influenced by. (Other prominent boosters include Netscape founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, and Balaji Srinivasan, the entrepreneur best known for advocating Silicon Valley's complete secession from the US to form its own corporate city-state.) [...]

Reluctant to enrich Davidson or the Rees-Mogg estate any further, I bought a used edition online, the musty pages of which were here and there smeared with the desiccated snot of whatever nose-picking libertarian preceded me. [...]

The book's 400-odd pages of near-hysterical orotundity can roughly be broken down into the following sequence of propositions:

1) The democratic nation-state basically operates like a criminal cartel, forcing honest citizens to surrender large portions of their wealth to pay for stuff like roads and hospitals and schools.

2) The rise of the internet, and the advent of cryptocurrencies, will make it impossible for governments to intervene in private transactions and to tax incomes, thereby liberating individuals from the political protection racket of democracy.

3) The state will consequently become obsolete as a political entity.

4) Out of this wreckage will emerge a new global dispensation, in which a "cognitive elite" will rise to power and influence, as a class of sovereign individuals "commanding vastly greater resources" who will no longer be subject to the power of nation-states and will redesign governments to suit their ends.

The Sovereign Individual is, in the most literal of senses, an apocalyptic text. Davidson and Rees-Mogg present an explicitly millenarian vision of the near future: the collapse of old orders, the rising of a new world. Liberal democracies will die out, and be replaced by loose confederations of corporate city-states. Western civilisation in its current form, they insist, will end with the millennium. "The new Sovereign Individual," they write, "will operate like the gods of myth in the same physical environment as the ordinary, subject citizen, but in a separate realm politically." It's impossible to overstate the darkness and extremity of the book's predictions of capitalism's future; to read it is to be continually reminded that the dystopia of your darkest insomniac imaginings is almost always someone else's dream of a new utopian dawn.

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Google bends over for new "partner' Getty

Google removes 'View Image' and 'Search by Image' from search:

Google announced a few changes to its image search today, one of which being the removal of its option to check out an image without visiting the site that hosts it. [...] Since it was a stipulation of Google's settlement with Getty Images, it was only a matter of time before it happened. [...]

In 2016, Getty Images filed a complaint against Google to the European Union claiming that the company's image search promoted piracy. Getty Images told Time that having easy access to high-resolution photos through Google Images means "there is little impetus to view the image on the original source site." [...]

The two announced earlier this month that they had reached a deal. As part of the agreement, Google will obtain a multi-year license to use Getty's photos in its products, but it had to agree to change a few aspects of its image search. One change was the removal of "View Image"[...] Google also announced today that it has taken away the "Search by Image" button as well, but it noted that reverse image search through the Google Image search bar still works.

Beware that some other credulous "news" outlets (that I won't link to) are reporting this using Corporate Preferred Phrasing such as:

The change is the result of a new partnership announced last week between Getty Images and Google.

Hey, raise your hand if you instead wished Image Search would just entirely exclude by default all the parasitic link-farmers like Getty? (And Pinterest.)

But wow, it sure is great for Google that now they get to use Getty's massive collection of stultifyingly banal clip art in their future ad campaigns and web site banners. That's a pretty sweet capitulation in return for kneecapping their second-most-useful product.

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Same.

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Facebook now "protecting" you by installing literal spyware on your phone.

The Facebook iOS app now has a menu item labelled "Protect" that installs a Facebook's own VPN app. This lets Facebook "protect" you by intercepting and spying on the traffic of every other app on your phone including your web browser.

So that's pretty sweet.

Facebook is pushing its data-tracking Onavo VPN within its main mobile app:

Marketing Onavo within Facebook itself could lead to a boost in users for the VPN app, which promises to warn users of malicious websites and keep information secure as you browse. But Facebook didn't buy Onavo for its security protections.

Instead, Onavo's VPN allow Facebook to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem. For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps' new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more.

This data has already helped Facebook in a number of ways, most notably in its battle with Snapchat. At The WSJ reported last August, Facebook could tell that Instagram's launch of Stories -- a Snapchat-like feature -- was working to slow Snapchat's user growth, before the company itself even publicly disclosed this fact.

Cybersecurity Roundup:

A generous, yawny Wired feature about how Mark Zuckerbrg is trying to save Facebook dropped a few freaky details about the way the company surveils its employees -- and also possibly how it surveils journalists (or others).

In explaining some of its reporting methodology for the article, Wired wrote something that has raised a lot of very concerning questions. It stated, "(One current employee asked that a WIRED reporter turn off his phone so the company would have a harder time tracking whether it had been near the phones of anyone from Facebook.)"

In another section the article explains:

Soon [former employee Benjamin Fearnow] was on a videoconference with three Facebook employees, including Sonya Ahuja, the company's head of investigations. According to his recounting of the meeting, she asked him if he had been in touch with [Gizmodo reporter Michael Nuñez].

He denied that he had been. Then she told him that she had their messages on Gchat, which Fearnow had assumed weren't accessible to Facebook. He was fired. "Please shut your laptop and don't reopen it," she instructed him.

So ... is Facebook tracking the phone locations of journalists? Questions, we have so many questions.

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Sensual Santa

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Case Nightmare Buttcoin

@cstross ODINI: Escaping Sensitive Data from Faraday-Caged, Air-Gapped Computers via Magnetic Fields
@kithrup The only way to prevent information leakage is to run each device in its own pocket universe.
@HonestHypocrite Hack uses vibrations to generate gravitational waves to allow cross-chat between universe-gapped devices.
@cstross The Boötes void is a visible side-effect (in our universe) of aliens using gravitational leakage via the brane to exfiltrate data between cosmoi.
The universe next door has been hacked, and millions of civilizations exterminated, by malware mining an alien cryptocurrency.
@jckattck Case Nightmare Buttcoin

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