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Puerto Rico is getting help. But the destruction is so severe


The huge problem with helping Puerto Rico is you can’t just roll convoys of supplies in by truck. It’s an island. Everything comes in by ship or plane. FEMA, it appears, has genuinely mobilized as have multiple government agencies and resources. Thousands of personnel are on the ground. Search and rescue comes first, then getting power back on. However, the logistics are daunting and the level of destruction is horrendous. And people need food, water, medicine, and shelter now.

The National Guard Bureau (NGB) has more than 2,300 Guard members on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands taking part in security and support operations. The Air National Guard is focused on transporting food, water, and communications capabilities as well as rapidly increasing airlift into affected areas.

FEMA, working in coordination with federal partners, provided more than 1.5-million meals, 1.1-million liters of water, nearly 300 infant and toddler kits, and nearly 12,000 emergency roofing kits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for distribution to the public since Hurricane Maria’s landfall.

Ports are beginning to open, shipments are coming in. A few scattered areas have electricity and cell phone service. However, destroyed roads and little power slows everything down. The mayor of San Juan says two people just died in their hospital because generators ran out of fuel. Outbreaks of diseases could happen. So could rampaging gangs in the streets, as people get hungry and desperate. Many areas have no running water. That means maybe a couple of million people will need to find alternative ways to go potty, with all the accompanying health hazards that implies.

Puerto Rico’s water authority… is running water with generators it had in stock. All of the island’s waste water and water treatment plants lack electricity. “We still haven’t received the ones that FEMA is going to give me, but they are working with us,” he said. “We need 2,500 generators for the entire system to be running on generator power. Obviously we are not going to find that.”

“Do you know what people are referring to this town as? You know ‘The Walking Dead’?” Ms. Rivera said, noting that crime was sure to rise as people grew increasingly desperate. “We are afraid for our lives.”

Health care is a huge issue.

Although there’s food provided at the shelter, there is no running water. At night, she says, with no power residents are left in the dark and are awakened sometimes by the sound of gunshots nearby. But for Rivera and many others at the shelter, their biggest worry is health care.

“My husband is a kidney transplant survivor,” Rivera says, her voice trembling with emotion. “He’s diabetic and we don’t have ice to store his insulin.”

So what will happen to Puerto Rico?

How do grannies get refills on their meds and babies get clean diapers when the power is out, roads destroyed, and stores are empty?

Previous hurricane disasters in Puerto Rico resulted in power being out for 2-3 weeks, which is was seriously disrupting. This time though, power could be out for 6 months or more. That means commerce and business mostly stops and people don’t get paid. So how will they afford food, assuming stores actually have anything to sell?

Many there have generators. Sooner or later though, fuel for generators will run out. Then what? In New England a few years back an ice storm in early autumn took out the power for ten days. My sister and her husband live in an area there with slightly dicey power. They have a generator. After a few days, it ran out of fuel. There were fights at gas stations for gas. This happened after a week, and in an area where some places still had power. Puerto Rico has no power now and will have none anywhere for far longer than ten days.

Puerto Rico cannot afford the billions the cleanup will cost. The power company was already in dire financial condition. It doesn’t have the resources to rebuild their grid. Vulture capitalists are going to move in, buying property ultra-cheap. Maybe someone will buy the power company for pennies on the dollar. However, electrical rates are already very high there. A new owner would almost certainly make power even more expensive.

There are scattered reports of looting. If food, water, supplies, medicine aren’t shipped in fast and law enforcement doesn’t get a handle on things, looting could turn into loosely organized gangs or worse.

I was in Los Angeles when the Northridge earthquake hit. It knocked a big city with deep pockets and lots of resources to its knees. It was a blip compared to what Puerto Rico is coping with now. Let’s all help Puerto Rico. They really need it.

Increased malware attacks from criminal cryptocurrency miners

Criminal cryptocurrency miners are exploiting whatever platform they can find to do illicit mining. Kasperksy found 1.65 million computers infected with mining malware in the first eight months of 2017, a huge increase over 2016. Any and all platforms are being attacked. 25% of all websites run WordPress, so WordPress is an obvious target.

I’ve noticed a pronounced increase in my client’s WordPress sites being probed for vulnerabilities, with attempted logins, hunting for config files and vulnerabilities, etc. It’s not a small increase, it is several times normal. This is almost certainly due to cryptocurrency miners trying to break into the sites to install mining malware, often for Zcash and Monero because they are extremely anonymous and thus favored for hiding money more than Bitcoin is.

Personal computers can also be compromised.

Does your computer seem to running much slower than usual? If so, someone may be using your computer’s processing power to mine bitcoins.

This is precisely what bitcoin mining viruses do, yet many of them can be detected with antivirus programs. Malwarebytes is highly recommended for this purpose. Whether your antivirus program is Malwarebytes which we recommend or something else, running a scan every so often will allay infection concerns.

All the WordPress sites I manage have multiple levels of protection. You have to be proactive. Keep WordPress and all plugins and themes updated. Monitor the site on a regular basis. Anything less is asking for trouble. These attacks are done by professional criminals. Let me know if I can help protect your WordPress site too. Yes, it’s a jungle out there.

IBM’s Dave McMillen told Bleeping Computer via email that attackers used “a wide range of exploits […] to first compromise […] CMS platforms (WordPress and Joomla and JBoss server) prior to launching the subsequent CMDi [command injection] attack,” that installed the cryptocurrency mining tool.

“These [mining] tools were hidden within fake image files, a technique known as steganography, hosted on compromised web servers running Joomla or WordPress, or stored on compromised JBoss Application Servers,” McMillen says.

The expert says attackers usually downloaded a customized version of a legitimate mining tool named Minerd, or a Linux port named kworker.

The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism

Bitcoin was birthed in and is influenced by extremist right-wing libertarian ideology. You are no doubt familiar with their rants. We must protect ourselves from the dammed gummint who wants to take our money and, oh yeah, the Federal Reserve prints money, which causes inflation, and is doing this for nefarious reasons, probably to control us and of course, take our money.

No matter that none of this makes any economic sense, and that such crackpot ideologies are dismissed by actual economists. Right-wing libertarians appear primarily anguished by the thought that a) they have to pay taxes and b) that someone else might gain benefit for their tax money. That they themselves are helped by tax money others have paid never occurs to them.

So then, their goal is to hide as much money as possible from the government, and even if doing so might constitute tax evasion and money laundering, that would be a-ok because they are doing it for a noble cause and the rules don’t apply to them anyway.

Bitcoin is a perfect platform for this. However bitcoin proponents end up being incoherent. They claim paper money printed by governments is unstable and bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) will replace it. Except the price of bitcoin skitters wildly all over the place, so it’s not stable at all. Plus, a few can and do manipulate the price. Thefts and ripoffs are common, and it doesn’t scale. There’s no way bitcoin – which can do a whopping seven transactions a second now maximum – will ever replace actual currencies.

At heart, bitcoin is about eliminating governments and replacing them with a deranged unworkable fantasy of an ungoverned global marketplace with no rules and no regulations, in which everyone is somehow supposed to be free. It’s rubbish. A few on the top, the miners, will control it, and it won’t be decentralized at all.

David Golumbia parses all of this in great detail in The Politics of Bitcoin,  explaining how and why bitcoin emerged from John Bircher nutcase ideology and still owes much to that, and why this should make the rest of us uneasy.

He concludes by saying:

This is not to say that Bitcoin and the blockchain can never be used for non-rightist purposes, and even less that everyone in the blockchain communities is on the right. Yet it is hard to see how this minority can resist the political values that are very literally coded into the software itself. Recent events have shown repeatedly that we discount the power of engineers and/ or ideologues to realize their political visions through software design at our peril. What is required to combat that power is not more wars between algorithmic platforms and individuals who see themselves as above politics, but a reassertion of the political power that the blockchain is specifically constructed to dismantle.

Facebook, Google, Twitter are very concerned about racist ads


Silicon Valley wants you to know they are quite upset about all the horrible racist ads they’ve cheerfully allowed for years, now that everyone has found out about them. So, they are making a great kerfuffle about banning the ads – which of course had to be vetted by them before appearing – and hope we will all be happy now since they’ve been so proactive.

I’m a coder. There is no possible way three huge tech companies could make the exact same blithering idiot mistakes that somehow allowed noxious ads to appear and have it be a genuine mistake. It was by design. They knew exactly what they were doing.

Advertisers wanted ads targeting those who hate Blacks and were perkily told they could expand the range of the ad by also targeting those who hate Jews. I’ve run ad campaigns like these. The ads have to be approved, either by software or a human. Therefore, the ads were vetted and were allowed to appear.

But wait! Silicon Valley says such ad targeting has disappeared. Why it’s almost like they could turn it on and off effortlessly. Twitter was especially comical and unconvincing, saying darn it, those bad words were blacklisted yet somehow appeared in ads anyway. So we are sorry and the bad words truly are blacklisted now. I totally believe them. How about you?

Excerpts from a Quartz article:

Google

Typing in keyword suggestions (which advertisers use to build their ads and figure out who to target) like “why do jews ruin everything” led to the system generating more keyword suggestions like “jews ruin the world” and “jewish parasites.” Buzzfeed was also able to build and launch a campaign around the phrase “black people ruin neighborhoods.”

Facebook

Facebook allowed advertisers to target categories and ideas such as “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world,’” based on interest Facebook users had expressed on the social network and terms with which they had used to describe themselves.

Twitter

A Twitter representative told Quartz about the Daily Beast’s report:

The terms cited in this story have been blacklisted for several years and we are looking into why the campaign cited in this story were able to run for a very short period of time. Twitter actively prohibits and prevents any offensive ads from appearing on our platform, and we are committed to understanding 1) why this happened, and 2) how to keep it from happening again.