Russian Explorers Find ‘Swamp’ of Soviet Money

May 29th, 2017

I’m not sure at what age I’ll begin formal Homeschooling – Cryptogon Edition with my children, but this will be a great one for when I teach them about the fiat currency scam.

Via: BBC:

A group of explorers in Russia have found around a billion roubles in old Soviet money at an abandoned mine, but it’s all completely worthless.

The group from Saint Petersburg, who publish a blog on abandoned sites across Russia, came across the money after following rumours that large quantities of cash had been dumped in old missile silos near Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Komsomolskaya Pravda news website reports. After travelling for several hours across rough terrain in Russia’s Vladimir region, they found the mine overflowing with cash.

The site contains an estimated one billion roubles ($18m; £13.5m at current exchange rates, or $33.3m at the “official” Soviet rate in 1991) in Soviet Union banknotes of various denominations issued between 1961 and 1991, all no longer legal tender in the Russian Federation. The mine had been flooded in recent years, leaving what was essentially a swamp of banknotes bearing the face of Vladimir Lenin, the explorers’ YouTube channel shows.

According to their account of events, elderly locals told the team about the mine, but said that nobody dared go near the place because it was linked to the Soviet Union’s ballistic missile programme, and contaminated with radiation. However, Geiger counters showed that this was not the case.


Harnessing the Energy Generated When Freshwater Meets Saltwater

May 29th, 2017

I’d never heard of this before.

Via: Phys.org:

Penn State researchers have created a new hybrid technology that produces unprecedented amounts of electrical power where seawater and freshwater combine at the coast.

“The goal of this technology is to generate electricity from where the rivers meet the ocean,” said Christopher Gorski, assistant professor in environmental engineering at Penn State. “It’s based on the difference in the salt concentrations between the two water sources.”

That difference in salt concentration has the potential to generate enough energy to meet up to 40 percent of global electricity demands. Though methods currently exist to capture this energy, the two most successful methods, pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) and reverse electrodialysis (RED), have thus far fallen short.


80% of Millennials Say They Want to Buy a Home—But Most Have Less Than $1,000 Saved

May 29th, 2017

Via: CNBC:

Millennials aren’t buying homes in the same numbers as previous and older generations, but it’s not because they don’t want to. The vast majority of millennials do indeed aim to buy someday, or would even like to now if they could. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t look good.

New data from Apartment List shows that, although 80 percent of millennials would like to purchase real estate, very few are in a good position to buy, largely because they have nothing saved. According to the report, “68 percent of millennials said they have saved less than $1,000 for a down payment. Almost half, or 44 percent, of millennials said they have not saved anything for a down payment.”

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Google Now Tracks Your Credit Card Purchases and Connects Them to Its Online Profile of You

May 29th, 2017

Via: MIT Technology Review:

Google’s new ability to match people’s offline credit card purchases to their online lives is a stunning display of surveillance capitalism in action.

The capability, which Google unveiled this week, allows the company to connect the dots between the ads that it shows its users and what they end up actually buying. This is a crucial link for Google’s business that, for all of the company’s inventiveness, remains a matter of attracting users to its predominantly free services, collecting user data, and leveraging that data to sell advertising. If Google can show that someone who saw an ad for a furniture store in Google Maps, say, then went and made a big purchase at that store, the store’s owner is much more likely to run more ads.

Of course, Google has been able to track your location using Google Maps for a long time. Since 2014, it has used that information to provide advertisers with information on how often people visit their stores. But store visits aren’t purchases, so, as Google said in a blog post on its new service for marketers, it has partnered with “third parties” that give them access to 70 percent of all credit and debit card purchases.

So, if you buy stuff with a card, there’s a less than one-in-three chance that Google doesn’t know about it.


Outage

May 28th, 2017

Several people alerted me to a problem on Cryptogon earlier today. Indeed, there was a database problem that resulted in no posts displaying.

I’ve got it working again.


British Airways Cancels Flights as Major IT Failure Causes Worldwide Delays

May 27th, 2017

Via: Guardian:

British Airways has cancelled all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick before 6pm on Saturday due to a major IT failure that is causing very severe disruption to its global operations.

The airline said that its terminals at Heathrow and Gatwick had become “extremely congested” due to the computer problems.

It had therefore decided to cancel all flights from both of the UK’s biggest airports before 6pm UK time on Saturday. “Please do not come to the airports,” BA said.

“We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience this is causing our customers and we are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

Travellers have been told to check ba.com and its Twitter account for updates about the situation.

The IT failure has struck on one of the busiest travelling days of the year in the UK, coinciding with the start of a bank holiday weekend and the half-term break for some schools.

The cause of the issue remained unclear, but passengers on one flight were told by the pilot that the IT problems were “catastrophic”.

BA said there was no evidence a cyber-attack had caused the outage.


Zbigniew Brzezinski Dies at 89

May 26th, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter advocated a hard line toward the Soviet Union and helped develop the unsuccessful military mission to rescue American hostages in Iran, has died. He was 89.


How Facebook’s Tentacles Reach Further Than You Think

May 26th, 2017

Via: BBC:

Facebook’s collection of data makes it one of the most influential organisations in the world. Share Lab wanted to look “under the bonnet” at the tech giant’s algorithms and connections to better understand the social structure and power relations within the company.

“If Facebook were a country, it would be bigger than China,” says Mr Joler, whose day job is as a professor at Serbia’s Novi Sad University.

He reels off the familiar, but still staggering, numbers: the barely teenage Silicon Valley firm stores some 300 petabytes of data, boasts almost two billion users, and raked in almost $28bn (£22bn) in revenues in 2016 alone.

And yet, Mr Joler argues, we know next to nothing about what goes on under the bonnet – despite the fact that we, as users, are providing most of the fuel – for free.

“All of us, when we are uploading something, when we are tagging people, when we are commenting, we are basically working for Facebook,” he says.

The data our interactions provide feeds the complex algorithms that power the social media site, where, as Mr Joler puts it, our behaviour is transformed into a product.

Trying to untangle that largely hidden process proved to be a mammoth task.

“We tried to map all the inputs, the fields in which we interact with Facebook, and the outcome,” he says.

“We mapped likes, shares, search, update status, adding photos, friends, names, everything our devices are saying about us, all the permissions we are giving to Facebook via apps, such as phone status, wifi connection and the ability to record audio.”

All of this research provided only a fraction of the full picture. So the team looked into Facebook’s acquisitions, and scoured its myriad patent filings.

The results were astonishing.

Visually arresting flow charts that take hours to absorb fully, but which show how the data we give Facebook is used to calculate our ethnic affinity (Facebook’s term), sexual orientation, political affiliation, social class, travel schedule and much more.

One map shows how everything – from the links we post on Facebook, to the pages we like, to our online behaviour in many other corners of cyber-space that are owned or interact with the company (Instagram, WhatsApp or sites that merely use your Facebook log-in) – could all be entering a giant algorithmic process.

And that process allows Facebook to target users with terrifying accuracy, with the ability to determine whether they like Korean food, the length of their commute to work, or their baby’s age.

Another map details the permissions many of us willingly give Facebook via its many smartphone apps, including the ability to read all text messages, download files without permission, and access our precise location.

Individually, these are powerful tools; combined they amount to a data collection engine that, Mr Joler argues, is ripe for exploitation.

“If you think just about cookies, just about mobile phone permissions, or just about the retention of metadata – each of those things, from the perspective of data analysis, are really intrusive.”


Gunmen Kill 26 in Attack on Christians in Egypt

May 26th, 2017

Via: Reuters:

Gunmen attacked buses and a truck taking a group of Coptic Christians to a monastery in southern Egypt on Friday, killing 26 people and wounding 25 others, witnesses and the Health Ministry said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the unidentified gunmen had arrived in three four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Eyewitnesses said masked men stopped the two buses and a truck and opened fire on a road leading to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya province, which is home to a sizeable Christian minority.

Security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road.

The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning, said the attack was intended to destabilize the country.

“I call on Egyptians to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism,” Ahmed al-Tayeb said from Germany, where he was on a visit.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called a meeting of security officials, the state news agency said. The Health Ministry put the toll at 26 dead and 25 wounded.


Subaru to Develop Electric Variants of Current Range

May 26th, 2017

Via: The Motor Report:

Subaru is set to join the ever-expanding electric vehicle field, but rather than developing a new ground-up EV platform the Japanese automaker will adapt its current range.


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