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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

repeating. repeating, repeating...

Graphic by Michael Hale

I posted this reworking of Martin Niemöller's poem on Facebook in December of last year; I think it's worth repeating:

Monday, 7 September 2015

digital strip search

Source image from: joeydevilla.com
“In his backpack, Wouter Slotboom, 34, carries around a small black device, slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes, with an antenna on it. I meet Wouter by chance at a random cafe in the center of Amsterdam. It is a sunny day and almost all the tables are occupied. Some people talk, others are working on their laptops or playing with their smartphones.
     Wouter removes his laptop from his backpack, puts the black device on the table, and hides it under a menu. A waitress passes by and we ask for two coffees and the password for the WiFi network. Meanwhile, Wouter switches on his laptop and device, launches some programs, and soon the screen starts to fill with green text lines. It gradually becomes clear that Wouter’s device is connecting to the laptops, smartphones, and tablets of cafe visitors. […]
     Slotboom can also broadcast a fictitious network name, making users believe they are actually connecting to the network of the place they’re visiting. For example, if a place has a WiFi network consisting of random letters and numbers (Fritzbox xyz123), Slotboom is able to provide the network name (Starbucks). People, he says, are much more willing to connect to these.
     We see more and more visitors log on to our fictitious network. The siren song of the little black device appears to be irresistible. Already 20 smartphones and laptops are ours. If he wanted to, Slotboom could now completely ruin the lives of the people connected: He can retrieve their passwords, steal their identity, and plunder their bank accounts. Later today, he will show me how. I have given him permission to hack me in order to demonstrate what he is capable of, though it could be done to anyone with a smartphone in search of a network, or a laptop connecting to a WiFi network.
     Everything, with very few exceptions, can be cracked.”
— Maurits Martijn (Translated from Dutch by Jona Meijers), Medium/matter
Read more…

wishful thinking

“More than half of the findings from 100 different studies published in leading, peer-reviewed psychology journals cannot be reproduced by other researchers who followed the same methodological protocol. A study by more than 270 researchers from around the world has found that just 39 per cent of the claims made in psychology papers published in three prominent journals could be reproduced unambiguously – and even then they were found to be less significant statistically than the original findings. […] [Brian] Nosek [professor of psychology at the University of Virginia] said that there is often a contradiction between the incentives and motives of researchers – whether in psychology or other fields of science – and the need to ensure that their research findings can be reproduced by other scientists. ‘Scientists aim to contribute reliable knowledge, but also need to produce results that help them keep their job as a researcher. To thrive in science, researchers need to earn publications, and some kind of results are easier to publish than others, particularly ones that are novel and show unexpected or exciting new directions,’ he said.”
The Independent
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“Here’s some brain images I just created from some MRI data I had laying around.
     Took about three minutes. Big difference, right [compared to the image at the top of this post (Folded Sky)]? Somewhat counter-intuitively, the left and right images above are actually the exact same functional brain data, all I did to create the right one was to lower the statistical threshold on the colour-overlay, to essentially say “Show me more results, I don’t care if they’re statistically reliable or not.”
     People who do this kind of work are very clued-in to these kinds of issues, and would always look for a colour-scale on these kinds of images in research papers. Clearly though the general public aren’t that conversant with statistical issues in brain imaging, because why would they be?”
— NeuroBollocks
Read more…

Sunday, 6 September 2015

excess of evil

From: www.zum.de
“In 1953, the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government and installed the Shah, a brutal dictator who proceeded to establish one of the worst human rights records of the era. Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which deposed the Shah, Washington turned its favor to another brutal dictator in the region: Saddam Hussein, who received U.S. aid throughout the Iran-Iraq War. Ever since the revolution, the U.S. has imposed various sanctions on Iran. And most recently, we launched major military operations in two of Iran’s neighboring states, further destabilizing the region and threatening Iran’s own safety.
     But in the eyes of U.S. commentary, Iran remains the supreme evil. It’s instructive, for instance, that without any irony or self-awareness we charge Iran with interfering in the Iraq War – a war we instigated from the other side of the world, against massive international protest, on Iran’s doorstep. Actually, Iran’s involvement in the Iraq conflict has necessarily increased with the growing threat of ISIS, a group that only exists because of the immense power vacuum and destabilization caused by the U.S. invasion.”
— Kyle Schmidlin, Salon
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Friday, 4 September 2015


“Three weeks gone now since the release of a detailed investigation of arguably the most significant UFO footage of the modern era. Yet, not a peep about it in the mainstream press. Can you believe that? Could this be part of a pattern? Hmm.
     OK, let’s just dispense with the obvious (again): When it comes to The Great Taboo, The New York Times, The Washington Post and pretty much every corporate watchdog in the Fourth Estate are reliable no-shows unless being spoonfed press release-sized pre-chewed culturally acceptable talking points. But maybe it’s unfair to single out the institutions; no mortal is immune to the evolutionary shift that is reprogramming -- right now, even as you read -- the universal attention span for minimal capacity. Who among you can hang, seriously, be honest, with a technical, 162-page multi-disciplinary analysis of a high-strangeness event– even if it was captured by an airborne government surveillance camera? But of course you'd watch the video, who wouldn't? That's why one would think somebody, somewhere, might’ve broken from the mainstream flock and at least posted the footage, just for the easy bounce in traffic. It’s not every day we get a chance to see a taxpayer-financed video of a UFO outperforming our coolest toys.”
— Billy Cox, DE VOID
Read more…

“A scheduled commercial takeoff from Puerto Rico’s Rafael Hernandez Airport was delayed for 16 minutes until the submersible bogey flying without a transponder (now there's a combination) cleared the area. Maybe that’s why scientists like [SETI’s] Seth Shostak  are so quick to disparage UAP research. Tens of millions of dollars, financed by billionaire sugar daddies and taxpayers alike, for more than half a century -- and radio astronomy has produced no data whatsoever to justify its exclusive methodology. Zilch. Trying to persuade public opinion that SETI is the only game in town is part of the con.”
— Billy Cox, DE VOID
Read more…

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

free flowing

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“[...] The modern era’s first free public water fountain was unveiled in London in 1859. Thousands gathered to watch officials turn on the tap. At its peak, about 7,000 people used the fountain each day. At that time, the rich were buying water brought in from the country. The poor were drinking water bottled from the sewage-infested Thames. Water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid were rampant.
     The fountain changed all that by making clean water accessible for free. By 1879, London had 800 fountains. American cities followed suit. In 1859, New York debuted a fountain at City Hall Park. Detroit, Philadelphia and San Francisco soon built their own. By 1920, most municipalities were providing free, chlorinated water. The public health benefits were obvious. Half of the decline in urban deaths between 1900 and 1940 can be attributed to improvements in water quality, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.’
     Municipal chlorinated water was considered yet another modern evolution,’ says Francis H. Chapelle, a hydrologist and the author of Wellsprings: A Natural History of Bottled Spring Waters. ‘It basically put bottled water out of business.’ By 1930, Chapelle says, bottled water had become ‘low class,’ used only in offices and factories that couldn’t afford plumbing.
     Attitudes began to shift in the 1970s, when Europe’s Perrier set its sights on the American market. In 1977, the company spent $5 million on an advertising campaign in New York, selling itself as a chic, upscale product. Yuppies lapped it up. ‘It was a lifestyle-defining product,’ Chapelle says. By 1982, U.S. bottled-water consumption had doubled to 3.4 gallons per person per year.
     Seeing an opportunity, U.S. beverage producers followed Perrier’s lead. In 1994, Pepsi launched Aquafina. Coca-Cola joined the club with Dasani in 1999. Homegrown brands, though, couldn’t boast glamorous European roots. So instead, they made Americans afraid of the tap. One ad from Royal Spring Water claimed that 'tap water is poison.' Another, from Calistoga Mountain Spring Water, asked: 'How can you be sure your water is safe? . . . Unfortunately, you can’t.' Fiji Water infuriated Ohio with the tagline 'The label says Fiji because it’s not bottled in Cleveland.'
The insinuation, of course, was that there was something wrong with local water. […]”
— Kendra Pierre-Louis, The Washington Post

Saturday, 11 July 2015

water, water everywhere?

Peter Breback-Letmathe in 2007:

Some hard facts to swallow…

     A large water tanker truck typically carries about 33,300 liters.
Nestlé will be permitted to extract 1.6 million litres per day from the well in Elora (Ontario, Canada). That works out to be approximately 51 trucks lumbering through our village per day. ( By the way, that’s enough water for 16,000 people—according to Nestlé (former) CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe’s numbers; see below.)

    Now... Here. Wash it down with this:

“The price of a litre of bottled water in B.C. is often higher than a litre of gasoline.
     However, the price paid by the world’s largest bottled water company for taking 265 million litres of fresh water every year from a well in the Fraser Valley — not a cent. Because of B.C.’s lack of groundwater regulation, Nestlé Waters Canada — a division of the multi-billion-dollar Switzerland-based Nestlé Group, the world’s largest food company — is not required to measure, report, or pay a penny for the millions of litres of water it draws from Hope and then sells across Western Canada.
     According to the provincial Ministry of Environment, 'B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn’t regulate groundwater use. The province does not license groundwater, charge a rental for groundwater withdrawals or track how much bottled water companies are taking from wells,” said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson in an email to The Province.”
O Canada (August 14, 2013)
Read more…

And then, later in the year, new British Columbian (provincial) legislation resulted in this:

“The new Water Sustainability Act will replace the 1909 Water Act, and it will mean B.C. will no longer be the only province in the country not regulating groundwater use. […]
     Under the new rules, large-scale users now able to use water without limit and without cost will pay an annual fee and 85 cents for every 1,000 cubic metres of groundwater used.
     For example, a Nestle Canada plant in Hope, B.C., that bottles an estimated 71 million imperial gallons — 319.5 million litres — of water for sale annually, would pay about $265 […]”.
 — Huffington Post (The emphasis [bold] is mine.)
Read more…

In an interview, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe CEO of Nestlé (from 2005), and featured in the documentary “We feed the world" by Erwin Wagenhofer, (February 25/13) said:

“[…] we have something approaching a shibboleth that everything that comes from nature is good. A good example is the organic movement. ‘Organic is now best.’ But organic is not best.”

Here he sidesteps the vacuity of such a blanket statement by giving us “good news” about something else:

“After 15 years of eating GM food products in the USA, not one single case of illness has occurred from eating them to date. And inspite of this we’re all so uneasy about it, that something might happen to us. It’s hypocrisy more than anything else.”

But recent research has shown otherwise:

“An agency of the World Health Organization has declared that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, ‘probably’ causes cancer in people. […] Glyphosate, introduced in the 1970s, is the most widely used herbicide in the world, sprayed on farms, in forests, on road sides and in gardens, and has a reputation for being benign, as pesticides go. It is now generic and used in many products, not only Roundup.
     Use of glyphosate has soared in the last two decades because of Monsanto’s [genetically modified] Roundup Ready crops, which account for most corn and soybeans grown in the United States. These crops are genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate, allowing farmers to spray their fields without harming the crops.”
— The New York Times

In the 2005 interview Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe goes on to say:

“There’s that lovely old Austrian folk song: ‘The dear cattle need water, hollera, holleri.’ if you remember.
     Water is, of course, the most important raw material we have today in the world. it’s a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water… um… a public right. This means that as a human being, you should have a right to water.
     That’s an extreme solution.
     And the other view says, that water is a foodstuff and like any other foodstuff, it should have a market value.
     Personally I believe it’s better to give a foodstuff a value so that we’re all aware that it has its price, and that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water. And there are many possibilities there." (Once more, the emphasis [bold] is mine.)

Then on the Nestlé website, in a stage-managed, scripted video message (August 27/13) he refutes his previous (and I would say more candid) statements with this:

“I have always supported the human right to water. Everyone should have enough clean, safe water to meet their fundamental daily needs. About 5 to 100 litres per day. But not to fill a pool or wash a car. There is the difference.
     We must rethink the way we think about water. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions without water. Water scarcity is the greatest challenge we face today, and we need to start recognizing water as a precious resource. Therefore water should be better managed, should be better valued, and has to be better preserved.
     If we give water value, there will be an incentive to invest in looking after our supplies. […] As a food producer we [at Nestlé] believe in the longterm sustainability of this resource.”

Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe seems to be a bit selective about the value of water. On the one hand, it’s worth a few dollars per million litres; but when he’s trying to make Nestlé look good, and feel all warm and fuzzy about itself, he says water is “[…] by far the most valuable resource on this planet” and that “water is a local issue." (See below; again, the emphasis is mine.)

“[...] Water is a local issue, there are no global solutions; at the same time, it is a horizontal and complex issue for which isolated piece-meal actions will have little or no effect. Indeed, once the problem of overdraft in a watershed has been identified, the active co-operation of all stakeholders is needed - in a context of strong government leadership. This is the approach taken by the 2030 Water Resources Group which I chair.”
Singapore International Water Week
Read more…

Water—by far the most valuable resource on this planet—is treated as if did not have any value at all. We often do not even know the cost of providing it; the true number is buried under open and hidden subsidies, taxes, and the sunk costs of municipal and regional water and irrigation departments. This is particularly true for water used in agriculture.
     The problem is not that farmers use water; the problem is that they very frequently use it inefficiently. We see sprinklers turning at noon, unlined irrigation canals where water is seeping away faster than it actually flows, and a lack of both interest and incentives to invest in drip irrigation. Water, too often, has no price. It is seen and treated as a free good, or the price for farmers is far below what others have to pay.
     Full cost recovery must be implemented for all those who today get massively subsidized municipal tap water (also to fill their swimming pools) and who can actually afford to pay. This is necessary to finance the huge amount of infrastructure required to reduce leakage losses in municipal water supplies—up to 70 percent—and to provide the financial means to extend them to those who do not have access.”
McKinsey Quarterly
Read more…

Here's the video on the Nestlé web site from August 2013:

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