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Visiting the dead on Google Street View

17 août[ —]

Over at OK Whatever, Jessie Schiewe tells of people who have looked up family addresses on Google Street View and found ghostly images of their dead loved ones in the midst of their everyday lives -- mowing the lawn, grabbing the mail, washing the car. From OK Whatever:

...For most people, finding dead relatives in Google Street View can be a great comfort. The father-in-law of a Reddit user called lovelyriver2929 was elated when he discovered his late-wife standing in front of their home in one of the photos taken of their address.

“He goes and looks at it sometimes,” she wrote. “He loves it because it was just her doing something completely normal on a completely normal day.”

For some people, it’s a reminder of what their loved ones looked like before they got sick, when they were still healthy enough to go outside and wash the car or mow the lawn. Sometimes these are even the last known images to be taken of a person.

“My grandpa died in 2017 and no one had any pictures with him from recent years. He only took photos when he was holding babies, and all us grandkids are in our teens and 20s,” one Reddit user wrote. “But I did this same thing and found a Google Street View photo of him mowing his front lawn from 2016. It was really good to see him doing something he loved to do and was always doing when he was here.”

And then sometimes, the ghosts vanish. Bill Frankel wrote a lovely essay at Modern Loss about finding a Google Street View image of his father working in the yard at his home. The photo was taken before Bill and his siblings moved their dad into a retirement community where he died shortly after. From Modern Loss:

(A story I read online) prompted me to go check on my father in the yard, as I had done so many times before (most recently within the past couple of months).

But this time, he was gone. Google had updated the picture.

That fact was more shocking than finding my father there in the first place, some three years earlier. I’m not an emotional person, but this revelation really overwhelmed me with sadness, especially as I broke the news to my wife and my siblings.

As my oldest sister said, being able to check in on Dad in the yard (even virtually) helped mitigate the guilt we felt for taking him out of his element in the first place. It was as if he spent the past few years “at home.”

Check out these amazing sf movies made by Nigerian teens

16 août[ —]

The Critics Company is a collective of Nigerian teen afrofuturist filmmakers who make incredible looking, smart science fiction movies with camerawork courtesy of old, busted mobile phones and VFX generated in Blender.

Their showpiece is Z: The Beginning, a ten-minute short that took the collective 7 months to shoot and edit: "Z is a short film set in a post apocalyptic era in Nigeria around the 2050's which reveals a developed Nigeria undergoing invasions. The word Z centers around a scientifical project (PROJECT Z) created by a Company called 'The Triangle'."

Their channel also includes some behind the scenes mini-docs showing how they accomplish so much with very little.

(via Kottke)

Elizabeth Warren publishes a massive, detailed plan for addressing the injustice of US relations with indigenous American peoples

16 août[ —]

Even by Elizabeth Warren's high standards, her plan for "honoring and empowering tribal nations and indigenous peoples is detailed, ambitious, and important.

Warren's plan is a top-to-bottom reimagining of how the US relates to indigenous peoples: American Indians, Alaska natives and native Hawaiians, from broadband plans to criminal justice reform to nation-to-nation treaty negotiations to finance reform to curriculum reform and much, much more.

From creating a permanent, cabinet-level post for nation-to-nation negotiating with indigenous peoples to addressing the systematic problems that gives rise to the epidemic of missing and murdered native women to making budget allocations for indigenous peoples automatic and nondiscretionary, Warren's plan is thoughtful and bold.

The plan covers physical and mental health provision, addiction treatment, community health for chronic disease, physical infrastructure improvements (including broadband provision), free postsecondary education, and a program of reparations for broken treaty promises and centuries of abuse.

A cynic might say that Warren's attention to this issue is a savvy way to head off cheap "Pocahontas" jokes, but a better explanation is:

1. This is totally in keeping with Warren's other plans in its seriousness and its commitment to fundamental justice;

2. The issue of reparations and justice for indigenous American peoples is urgent and long overdue;

3. To the extent that Warren's belief in her indigenous ancestry plays a role here, it is in that it makes the issue of these injustices personal and serious for her.

I am a donor to both Elizabeth Warren's and Bernie Sanders's campaigns.

There is so much more we should do — from leveraging our trade deals to improve indigenous human rights abroad to living up to the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to consulting with tribal officials to better repatriate artifacts that rightfully belong to tribes. Structural change means truly integrating indigenous voices and values into our policy decisions.

I believe we are at a critical moment in our history. A moment when we must choose to stand together, to lift each other up, to take on each other’s fights as our own, and to make the kind of change that will build a better future for all of our kids. If we are to achieve this, then we must stand united with Tribal Nations and indigenous peoples to ensure that Native voices are heard and their rights are respected. With real commitment, and with real structural change, we can write a new story.

Honoring and Empowering Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples [Elizabeth Warren/Medium]

The guy who figured out Bernie Madoff's scam now says GE is about to go bankrupt

16 août[ —]

Well before the collapse of Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme -- the largest in world history! -- accounting investigator Harry Markopolos had publicly accused Madoff of running a scam; now he says that General Electric is "one recession away" from bankruptcy, with a "balance sheet in tatters."

Markopolos and his team just released a 175-page report called GENERAL ELECTRIC, A BIGGER FRAUD THAN ENRON, which accuses the firm of using accounting tricks to paper over $40b in liabilities and to disguise problems with the company's stake in oil services firm Baker Hughes.

GE does not dispute that it has $71b in assets and $106b in debt, but says that it "expects to make significant progress" reducing its debts next year.

GE accuses Markopolos of ginning up false claims as part of a drive to benefit short sellers, who make money when GE's share price declines. Markopolos his research was funded by short-sellers, but he says that his research was motivated by his distaste for fraud, not the interests of his funders.

Markopolos also dismissed claims by GE that he will profiting from the fall in the company's stock price because he is working with a firm that is shorting GE stock -- betting that the price will go down so it can make money off of the decline. He would not name the investment firm, saying simply that he's a "seeker of the truth." "If I see accounting fraud, I go after it," he said.

Markopolos added that he's had "ongoing discussions" with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice about their investigations into GE's accounting. GE has said in regulatory filings and during earnings conference calls with analysts that is cooperating with both the SEC and DOJ. The SEC declined to comment about the status of its GE probe. The DOJ was not immediately available for comment.

GENERAL ELECTRIC, A BIGGER FRAUD THAN ENRON [Harry Markopolos/Fraud Investigators]

Madoff whistleblower says GE is 'one recession away from Chapter 11' [Paul R. La Monica/CNN Business]

Announcement of Tumblr's sale to WordPress classified as pornography by Tumblr's notorious "adult content" filter

16 août[ —]

Tumblr is being sold to WordPress parent company Automattic for a reported price of "less than $3m," a substantial decline from the $1.1B Yahoo paid for the company in 2013 (Yahoo subsequently sold Tumblr and several other startups it had overpaid for and then ruined to Verizon for more than $4b).

Much of that decline in value is the result of Verizon's decision to introduce a fucking terrible automated "adult content" filter (that decision, in turn, was driven by the passage of SESTA, a US censorship law that pushed Apple to briefly remove the Tumblr app from the Ios App Store).

When I first read the announcement of the Automattic acquisition, I briefly held out hope that the new owners would reverse Verizon's mistake, but those hopes were dashed then Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg announced that the filter would stay.

It's hard to understand this decision. The filter is a piece of unadulterated, unsalvageable garbage. Its awfulness is hard to overstate, but it can be neatly illustrated by this Bruce Sterling post, which reveals that the Tumblr porn filter blocked Sterling's post of a screenshot of a news story about the acquisition, which includes the happy coda, "This decision cannot be appealed."

Timelapse of the Milky Way with the sky held motionless and the Earth rotating

16 août[ —]

One of the smartest, most interesting people I ever knew once told me about a time when he got really interested in the problem of calculating the orbits of the planets based on the idea tha the Earth was stationary and everything was moving relative to it (this being one of the corollaries of the idea of a relativistic universe); I immediately thought of that project when I saw Aryeh Nirenberg's timelapse of the Milky Way where the sky is held stationary and the Earth is rotated -- such a simple and powerful way to illustrate relatavistic motion! (via Kottke)

Penetration tester releases proof-of-concept code for hijacking smart buttplugs

16 août[ —]

Last week at Defcon, a security researcher named Smea presented their findings on vulnerabilities in the Lovesense Hush, an internet-of-things buttplug that has already been shown to have critical privacy vulnerabilities.

Smea's attack starts by compromising the Hush's Bluetooth dongle, then using that to send malicious commands or upload malicious code to the insertable sex-toy component. The compromise attacks Lovesense's implementation of the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol, and the vulnerability may also be present in other devices (the chips haven't been manufactured since 2017, and its manufacturer, Nordic Semiconductor, has published a security advisory based on Smea's findings).

Smea's attack was successful in part because Lovesense's control app was built with the Electron Javascript framework, which has many known security defects that expose many browser apps to attacks, including Slack, Whatsapp, and Skype.

Smea's proof of concept code is live on Github, with the injunction "don't be a dick, please don't actually try to use any of this."

In an interview with Gizmodo's Dell Cameron, Smea speculates on whether hijacking a sex-toy should be considered sexual assault and concludes, "Personally, I don’t know if that’s the case or not. I know it would be a really shitty thing to do either way, so people should not do it."

smea: The idea is that from the dongle you can actually compromise the app that’s running on a computer. IoT developers have all these newer technologies, like javascript-based applications, working together with these super-low level microcontrollers. They don’t necessarily understand the implications of, for example, dumping raw input from the dongle to HTML. So that actually is the way I’m able to get inside the [buttplug] app, due to this weird interface between super-old technology and newer web technology.

From there you can compromise other [buttplug] apps through the social feature of the app, either through straight-up chats, by sending a message with HTML, or by compromising the dongle of the remote partner [using the feature that allows you to] send messages to control the partner’s toy. And that actually allows you to exploit a vulnerability inside the dongle’s code, which is in the JSON parser.

A Buttplug Hacker Talks Security, Consent, and Why He Hacked a Buttplug [Dell Cameron/Gizmodo]

(via Four Short Links)

A new drug that may help lots of people will apparently be more expensive than it should

16 août[ —]

Pretomanid, developed by the non-profit TB Alliance, offers a new, safer and more effective treatment for tuberculosis. The non-profit is organized to improve access and affordability of life-saving treatments, but has currently only allowed one drug manufacturer to produce pretomanid. Doctors without Borders fears high prices will limit availability.


"In all of the lower-income countries, we will be encouraging other manufacturers, generic manufacturers, to get into the market — to get competition to drive down the price as well," he says.

But Lynch of Doctors Without Borders thinks there is a better way to keep these drugs affordable: baking a low-price requirement into the TB Alliance's licensing agreement with Mylan, which the organizations have not disclosed.

"What works even better than competition — which, by the way, will take a while — is you set the price reasonably low to begin with," she says.

Judge orders the State of Georgia to be prepared for pen-and-paper balloting by March 2020

16 août[ —]

Few states have voting machines that are simultaneously more obviously defective and more ardently defended by the state government than Georgia, where 16-year-old touchscreen systems are prone to reporting ballots cast by 243% of the eligible voters and where gross irregularities in election administration sends voters to the wrong polling places or sends co-habitating husbands and wives to polls in different cities to cast their votes.

Georgia's voting catastrophe was overseen by Brian Kemp, who, as Secretary of State, also oversaw one of the nation's most notorious voter-suppression efforts, leading up to his election as governor, beating out Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in 2018 an election he himself was overseeing, by a squeaker of a margin that could have easily gone Democratic if the machines' defects or the voter suppression had been just a little less egregious.

Now, a District Court Judge has ordered that Georgia's voting machines be scrapped, and that the state prepare to hand-count paper ballots in March 2020 if new machines can't be sourced, tested, and installed in time for the primaries.

Judge Amy Totenberg did not order a paper-ballot election, however, holding out the hope of new digital systems being installed in time. She wrote that "Georgia’s current voting equipment, software, election and voter databases, are antiquated, seriously flawed, and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination, and attack" and said that a full trial over the state's electoral rigging would likely be found in favor of disenfranchised voters, due to "the mountain of voter testimony showing that these vulnerabilities have a tangible impact on these voters’ attempts to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot and have their vote counted."

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has approved a new screen-and-paper balloting system from Dominion Voting Systems of Colorado, who won a $106m contract for machines that comply with specifications established by the state's GOP legislature. Dominion's systems are not considered secure by the activists who brought the initial legal challenge to the existing systems, and introduce new vulnerabilities, including the use of QR-codes for the paper ballot that cannot be read or verified by voters.

The plaintiffs will also challenge the use of the Dominion systems in state elections.

Perhaps alluding to the fact that the plaintiffs have said they plan to challenge the new system in court, Totenberg quoted baseball legend Yogi Berra, writing: “The past may here be prologue anew — it may be ‘like déjà vu all over again.’”

The state, she wrote, has “previously minimized, erased, or dodged the issues underlying this case.” For that reason, she wrote, she devoted space in her 153-page order to meticulously recounting the history of the case and related actions, or inaction, by the state “to ensure transparency for the future.”

Judge: Georgia must scrap old voting machines after 2019 [Kate Brumback/AP]

(Thanks, Anonymous!)

This BMW R90S has run 240k miles

16 août[ —]

Moon stuff notwithstanding, this particular bike is just beautiful at nearly a quarter-million miles. This bike is clearly well-loved, and her owner seems chill, like an Airhead should be.

Mine has 50,078.

Here is yours.

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