Monitoring And Debunking COVID-19 Panic: The “Haarlem Aldi” Hoax
> Knowing how relatively calm the situation has been here in the Netherlands (especially in Haarlem, where there is one reported case), we at Bellingcat felt that the video was likely fake — and set out to prove it.
The Panic of 2020? Oh, I Made a Ton of Money—and So Did You
> Hindsight bias suggests that one day you’ll look back on all of this and... lie
> In a classic experiment in 1972, researchers asked people to estimate the likelihood that various positive and negative outcomes might result from President Richard Nixon’s upcoming trips to China and Russia that year. We now call those visits “historic” because they thawed decades of hostility between the U.S. and the communist powers. In advance, no one knew whether the trips would accomplish anything. About two weeks after Nixon’s visits, 71% of people recalled putting better odds on his success than they had at the time. Four months on, 81% remembered being more sure Nixon would succeed than they had said beforehand.
> In short, learning what did happen impedes you from retrieving what you thought would happen.
Quite a few studies in this area, all with the same result.
Donald Knuth Was Framed
Knuth writes 8 pages and McIlroy writes six lines.
> A damning counter. But neither of us had ever read the paper. And as you know, I’m all about primary sources. We pulled up the paper here and read through it together. And it left us with a very different understanding of literate programming, and the challenge, than the famous story gave.
danger + opportunity ≠ crisis
> There is a widespread public misperception, particularly among the New Age sector, that the Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of elements that signify “danger” and “opportunity.” I first encountered this curious specimen of alleged oriental wisdom about ten years ago at an altitude of 35,000 feet sitting next to an American executive. He was intently studying a bound volume that had adopted this notorious formulation as the basic premise of its method for making increased profits even when the market is falling. At that moment, I didn’t have the heart to disappoint my gullible neighbor who was blissfully imbibing what he assumed were the gems of Far Eastern sagacity enshrined within the pages of his workbook. Now, however, the damage from this kind of pseudo-profundity has reached such gross proportions that I feel obliged, as a responsible Sinologist, to take counteraction.
On the Internet, No One Knows You’re Not Rich. Except This Account.
> In February, an Instagram account called @BallerBusters cropped up and began wreaking havoc on the flashy Instagram entrepreneur community.
> Its goal: To expose phony entrepreneurs. Using a mix of screen-shotted receipts, memes and crowdsourced information from followers, the account seeks out people who don’t “act their wage.”
Penn Jillette Talks About His 2nd Appearance On "Late Night w/ David Letterman" & The Actual Segment
> Penn told this story and it provided a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the difference between recollection/a story VS the real event as there was video of the event.
I liked this a lot. It’s a pretty good story, first of all. Penn’s version is believable and essentially accurate, but suffers from a few discrepancies.
Tucker Carlson: Washington Post ‘noticed’ the story that it broke on Joe Biden
> Fox News host Tucker Carlson finds himself in a pickle: On the one hand, he must do his propagandistic duty of discrediting top-tier Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden; on the other, doing so requires crediting enemy media outlets.
> “The worst part is, the story wasn’t even true. It turned out to be a jumbled mashup of a bunch of different stories with all of the facts wrong. Even The Washington Post noticed. And trust me, they’ve got every incentive to lie about it, they often do,” said Carlson, articulating the most churlish, petty and envious story credit ever to air.
New York Times lawyer on Palin editorial: ‘It was an honest mistake’
> Sarah Palin has launched countless bogus attacks against what she calls the “lamestream media.” Virtually all of them disintegrate upon articulation, but one of them is lingering: On Aug. 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit restored a 2017 defamation lawsuit Palin filed against the New York Times over an editorial that falsely depicted the impact of her political action committee on the national discourse.
This is a much longer column than I expected, covering a lot of detail about proving defamation against a public figure.
Comments on Rep. Gosar’s “Stop the Censorship Act,” Another “Conservative” Attack on Section 230
> Now that the text is public, we can finally do a well-informed evaluation.
> This bill is terrible in many ways. Among other problems, it grossly misunderstands Section 230’s mechanics, its desired policy consequences would be horrible, and it is misdrafted to advance those objectives.
> It doesn’t bring me any joy to dunk on a bill like this. Like Sen. Hawley’s bill, it almost certainly was meant as a piece of performative art to “play to the base” rather than as a serious policy proposal. But even as performative art, it highlights how Section 230 is grossly misunderstood by politicians inside DC, and it’s a reminder that modifying Section 230 requires extreme care because even minor changes could have dramatic and very-much-unwanted consequences.
On colonialism, imperialism, and ignoring medieval history
> We have a lot of fun, don’t we, when we talk about how people argue that the medieval period was the Dark Ages based on the fact that the feel some type of way about it? Now, can I call people who think this ridiculously incredulous and basic? Yes. And I do. Thanks for asking. Having said that, the general ignorance of the medieval period is not from nothing.
I feel like every mention of the dark ages comes with the disclaimer that they weren’t that dark so I’m not sure how widespread the misperception still is. But there’s also some neat historical facts here.
> This ended up completely changing fashion in England. Anne is the girl who introduced those sweet horned headdresses you think of when you think of medieval ladies, riding side-saddle, and the word “coach” to England, (from the Hungairan Kocs, where the cart she arrived at court the first time came from). Sweetening her transition to English life was the fact that she didn’t have to pay a dowry to get married. Instead, the English were allowed to trade freely with Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire and allowed to be around a Czech lady. That was reward enough as far as the Empire was concerned. That’s how much England was not a thing.
What Internet Memes Get Wrong About Breezewood, Pennsylvania
> However, the idea that the photo is placeless is, to be blunt, nonsense. As others have pointed out before me, the setting is instantly recognizable as Breezewood and only Breezewood. Far from being “Every Town, U.S.A.,” Breezewood is a weird, improbable blip of a place. It’s what an architect might call a unique urban condition—a churning mini-city where the population nearly turns over every hour. (For this reason, and for the place’s sheer, unembarrassed honky-tonk, I’m a Breezewood fan.)
> Let’s talk about files! Most developers seem to think that files are easy.
> In this talk, we’re going to look at how file systems differ from each other and other issues we might encounter when writing to files. We’re going to look at the file “stack”, starting at the top with the file API, moving down to the filesystem, and then moving down to disk.
The case of the Photoshopped female CEOs
> This week, I dedicated approximately three hours to an investigation that seemed, at varying times, important, obscure, symbolic and deeply, deeply petty. The task at hand: determining whether two women who were photographed at a tech summit in Italy were, in fact, at this tech summit in Italy.
One law to rule them all?
> Power-law distributions seem to be everywhere, and not just in word-counts and whale whistles. Most people know that Vilfredo Pareto found them in the distribution of wealth, two or three decades before Udny Yule showed that stochastic processes like those in evolution lead to such distributions, and George Kingsley Zipf found his eponymous law in word frequencies. Since then, power-law distributions have been found all over the place
> Or maybe not? Many of the alleged “power-law” examples are actually log-normal, or some other heavy-tailed distribution, according to a paper by Aaron Clauset, Cosma Rohilla Shalizi, and M. E. J. Newman, “Power-law distributions in empirical data” (SIAM Review 2009). As an alternative to the paper, you can read Cosma’s blog post “So You Think You Have a Power Law — Well Isn’t That Special?”, 6/15/2007; or this summary of the results in “Cozy Catastrophes”, 2/15/2012:
Baltimore is not EternalBlue
> Recently a misleading and terribly researched article (via Nicole Perlroth and Scott Shane) came out in the NYT which essentially blamed the NSA and ETERNALBLUE for various ransomeware attacks on American city governments, including Baltimore. This then ballooned to PBS and the BBC and a bunch of other places, all of which parroted its nonsense.
‘Houston, we have a problem’: The amazing history of the iconic Apollo 13 misquote
> Swigert: “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”
> Mission control: “This is Houston. Say again, please.”
> Lovell: “Uh, Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
Caduceus as a symbol of medicine
> The caduceus (☤) is the traditional symbol of Hermes and features two snakes winding around an often winged staff. It is often mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine instead of the Rod of Asclepius, especially in the United States. The two-snake caduceus design has ancient and consistent associations with trade, eloquence, negotiation, alchemy, wisdom, and controversially, thievery, lying, and the passage into the underworld.
> The modern use of the caduceus as a symbol of medicine became established in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century as a result of documented mistakes, misunderstandings and confusion.
The good news is that both have their own unicode symbols, ⚕ and ☤.
As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants
> Internal documents show that the social network gave Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify and others far greater access to people’s data than it has disclosed.
> Facebook also allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread — privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems, the records show. Facebook acknowledged that it did not consider any of those three companies to be service providers. Spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix said those companies were unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them. A spokesman for Netflix said Wednesday that it had used the access only to enable customers to recommend TV shows and movies to their friends.
Principle of least authority need not apply.
Myth of the Brown Recluse
> The next “spider” most familiar to Californians-the brown recluse-is a myth. There are no populations of brown recluse spiders living in California. In case, this upsets your applecart, I repeat, there are no populations of brown recluse spiders living in California.
Your move, Bloomberg
> Bloomberg, on the other hand, gives readers virtually no road map for reproducing its scoop, which helps to explain why competitors have whiffed in their efforts to corroborate it. The relentlessness of the denials and doubts from companies and government officials obligate Bloomberg to add the sort of proof that will make believers of its skeptics. Assign more reporters to the story, re-interview sources, ask for photos and emails. Should it fail in this effort, it’ll need to retract the entire thing.