Change The Wi-Fi Password
July 3, 2019
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“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” – Henry Thomas Buckle
What Happens In China, Stays In China’s Servers
China’s Xinjiang Province is perhaps the most heavily monitored area in the world. The local Muslim population is subject to round-the-clock, multidimensional surveillance, from facial recognition cameras on streets and in mosques to tracking and information gathering software on residents’ phones. Xinjiang is 1984 in 2019.
An investigation by the Guardian and international partners recently revealed that Chinese border police are secretly installing surveillance apps on the phones of visitors to the region and downloading their personal information. Particular attention is paid to travelers who cross into Xinjiang over the Irkeshtam border from neighboring Kyrgyzstan. The border is used by traders and tourists alike, some following the historic Silk Road.
Border guards require travelers to unlock and hand over their phones and any other devices, such as cameras. The devices are then taken to a separate room, where iPhones are plugged into a reader that scans them, while Android phones have an app installed that extracts emails, texts and contacts, as well as information about the handset itself.
Tourists say they received no advance warning from authorities that their information is being taken, or what the software is looking for. The use of the app only came to light after travelers took their phones to reporters in Germany. A spokesperson for Privacy International described the findings as “highly alarming in a country where downloading the wrong app or news article could land you in a detention camp.”
- San Francisco Banned Facial Recognition. Will California Follow? (NYT, $)
- The Hotel Hackers Are Hiding in the Remote Control Curtains: Back doors to your personal data can be found in everything from smart fish tanks to Wi-Fi pineapples. (Bloomberg)
Airstrikes Leave 15 Dead
- Overnight Sunday Israeli airstrikes south of Damascus and in Homs province near the Syrian border with Lebanon killed at least 15 people, including children. In remarks carried by the official Sana news agency on Tuesday, Syria’s foreign minister accused Israel of “practicing state terrorism,” and continuing to prolong the crisis in the country.
- Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria since 2015, targeting supply routes and infrastructure like weapons depots, but civilian deaths have been relatively rare. (Guardian)
We’re Like Paul Bunyan But We Eat The Ox
- A few hundred miles from the capital of the Amazon state of Para in northern Brazil lies what’s known as the country’s “agricultural frontier.” Farming operations have steadily eaten into the Amazon rainforest, and is responsible for rampant deforestation.
- AgroSB Agropecuária SA is a scandal-ridden company that owns several vast farms in the area consisting of hundreds of thousands of acres. AgroSB supplies cattle to JBS, the world’s biggest meat packing company and single biggest supplier of beef, chicken and leather globally.
- In 2010 the Brazilian government banned the use of cattle on one of AgroSB’s farms due to the company’s illegal deforestation activities. But as the global demand for beef continues to grow, AgroSB has continued to violate the embargo and threaten the health of the world’s largest rainforest. (Guardian)
- ‘These Forests Are the Lungs of the Country’: Thai Rangers Guard Precious Rosewood: Deep in a jungle in Thailand, a battle is being waged between poorly armed forest rangers and poachers trying to sate China’s growing appetite for rare and precious rosewood. (NYT, $)
- Fake Meat Will Save Us: Until we have real leadership on climate, changing what we eat is the biggest thing we can do to save the planet. (NYT, $)
Myanmar Changes The Wi-Fi Password
- On June 22 Myanmar authorities ordered telecom companies to shut down internet services in the embattled western part of the country, where government troops have been fighting ethnic rebels.
- Services were suspended in nine townships in Rakhine and Chin states for “disturbances of the peace and use of internet activities to coordinate illegal activities.” The suspension was supposed to be “temporary,” but the ongoing blackout has nearly severed parts of those states from the outside world.
- On Tuesday a UN investigator advised that Myanmar security forces and insurgents are committing human rights violations against civilians that could well amount to fresh war crimes. In 2017 a military crackdown driven by “genocidal intent” caused more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes in Myanmar for Bangladesh. (NYT)
- President Trump wants to extend the list of EU goods that his administration would tax via tariffs. The new levies would hit an additional $4 billion of goods, including cherries, whiskey, Edam and Gouda cheese, roasted coffee, olives, coiled copper and cast iron pipes. It’s an escalation of a 14-year-old fight the US is having with Europe over government aid for aviation companies.
- Earlier the administration identified European imports worth an annual $21 billion for potential tariffs, in retaliation for Europe’s subsidies for Airbus. The World Trade Organization must grant approval before tariffs can be imposed on the initial list of products.
- The items added Monday would be subject to a public hearing. Last year Trump hit European steel and aluminum with tariffs; he’s also threatened to impose import taxes on European cars and car parts. (NYT)
Environmental Apocalypse Now
- Sydney to Declare a Climate Emergency in Face of National Inaction (NYT, $)
- ‘Climate apartheid’: UN expert says human rights may not survive: Right to life is likely to be undermined alongside the rule of law, special rapporteur says (Guardian)
- US generates more electricity from renewables than coal for first time ever: In April, renewables provided 23% compared to coal’s 20% (Guardian)
- Climate change made European heatwave at least five times likelier: Searing heat shows crisis is ‘here and now’, say scientists, and worse than predicted (Guardian)
- Melting Greenland Is Awash in Sand: Henry Fountain, a New York Times climate reporter, and Ben C. Solomon, a Times multimedia reporter, traveled to Greenland to experience the changing landscape. (NYT, $)
- Cleansing Plastic From Oceans: Big Ask for a Country That Loves Wrap (NYT, $)
Trolls Migrate From The Bridge To The Online Border
- A secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents, in which members posted derogatory remarks targeting migrants and lawmakers, is under investigation by Customs and Border Protection. The group was revealed Monday by the nonprofit news agency ProPublica, just as a delegation of Democratic congressional lawmakers toured three migrant detention facilities in southwestern Texas.
- Some of the offensive posts discussed recent deaths of migrants while in Border Patrol custody in Texas. Particularly vile posts were leveled at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), both part of the delegation. FB members referred to the women as “scumbags,” joked about throwing burritos at them, and on multiple occasions posted graphic illustrations falsely depicting Ocasio-Cortez performing a sex act.
- Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) condemned the online group, saying “It shocks the conscience that these agents are entrusted with the lives of anybody in their custody.” (NPR)
Additional USA News
- D.C. Prosecutors, Once Dubious, Are Becoming Believers In Restorative Justice (NPR)
- Trump: I may tackle homelessness as world leaders ‘can’t be looking at that’: Highlighting San Francisco and Los Angeles, president calls crisis disgraceful and says it could ‘ruin’ cities (Guardian)
- Tanks, Flyovers And Heightened Security: Trump’s Fourth Of July Ups Taxpayer Cost (NPR)
- The Welcome Humiliation of John Bolton: A warmonger is the latest to lose his dignity to Donald Trump. (NYT, $)
Creativity, Easy As 1 2 3
- How does a creative mind work? Studies have proven that there is a certain personality type that exhibits increases in creative thinking. “A 1998 review of dozens of creativity studies found that overall, creative people tend to be more driven, impulsive, and self-confident. They also tend to be less conventional and conscientious.” Creative minds also tend to be overly analytical and go against the grain of common practice.
- Creativity is also a state of mind, an attainable type of Nirvana. Rex Jung, a neuropsychologist who studies creativity at the University of New Mexico, states, “Most creative people have figured out a way to do the incubation thing—whether it’s meditation or staring out the window or taking long walks so their ideas can percolate…It’s finding that magic space where you’re not actively engaged with the external world, and not just surfing the Internet.”
- The studies conclude that the creative process can be broken down into 4 basic steps: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. When you are able to master all four steps, you will have drastically improved your creative mental functions. (Nautilus)
- “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou
- ‘Guilty’ Pleasures? No Such Thing: Go forth and read that trashy novel. (NYT, $) But let’s just hope that trashy novel is still accessible on your e-reader: The day the e-books stopped working: Consumers who bought ebooks via Microsoft’s online store are losing access to their libraries. (BBC)
- Plane stowaways: Do any survive?: A suspected stowaway is believed to have fallen to his death from a Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to Heathrow, landing in a garden in south London. (BBC)
- I paid $47 an hour for someone to be my friend: Is this a cure for the loneliness epidemic? (Vox)
- How the iPhone Helped Save the Planet (Wired)
- A History of the Bible by John Barton review – tiptoeing through a minefield: Did Jesus talk about being God’s son, or did the gospels tell it that way? A fascinating, wise exploration of the Bible’s evolution (Guardian)
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” – Andy Warhol
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