Thursday, 09 April

15:00 EDT

Fleeceware Apps Discovered on the iOS App Store [Slashdot]

More than 3.5 million iOS users have installed "fleeceware" apps on their devices, UK security firm Sophos warned in a report published earlier this week. From a report: The term fleeceware is a new addition to the cyber-security jargon and describes apps engaging in a new form of online fraud. Coined last year by Sophos researchers, the term refers to mobile apps that abuse legal loopholes in the app trial mechanism on Android -- and now iOS. Both the Google and Apple app stores allow app makers to create trial periods for commercial/paid/subscription apps. Users can install these apps and sign-up for a trial by giving the app permission to incur a charge on the user's Play Store or App Store account. Once the trial period ends, the user is charged automatically on their card and allowed to use the app.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New Emoji Are Being Delayed Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic [Slashdot]

One unexpected effect of the coronavirus pandemic has to do with the colorful little pictograms we use on our phones and computers to express, well, pretty much everything: emoji. From a report: According to the Unicode Consortium, a non-profit which takes care of the Unicode Standard -- a widely-used standard for character encoding on computers and phones -- the release of Unicode 14.0 has been postponed by six months. "Under the current circumstances we've heard that our contributors have a lot on their plates at the moment and decided it was in the best interests of our volunteers and the organizations that depend on the standard to push out our release date," Mark Davis, President of the Unicode Consortium, said in a statement. Unicode 14.0 was supposed to be released in March 2021, but that has been moved six months into the future, to September 2021. Since it takes a while for developers to incorporate new emoji into phones -- typically eight months or so, according to the Consortium -- this means we won't get any new emoji until well into 2022.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Thomas Kinkade painting of toilet paper available as puzzle and print for charity [Boing Boing]

The Kinkade Family Foundation turned up this Thomas Kincade unseen masterpiece "Untitled (Toilet Paper)," c. 1978, oil on canvas, 8" x 10, and have issued it as a puzzle and print. The proceeds benefit the New Art Dealers Alliance's (NADA) fund to support galleries impacted by COVID-19.

The canvas print is $150.00 unframed and $750 framed. The 100-piece puzzle is $45.00.

14:00 EDT

Apple is Developing 'Clips' Feature For Using Apps Without Requiring Full Downloads [Slashdot]

Apple is working on a new way to offer specific parts of third-party apps across the system without needing to have them installed, 9to5Mac has learned based on an early build of iOS 14. From a report: The feature would allow users to experience parts of an app's functionality by scanning a QR Code. If you open a link or scan a QR code today from an app that you haven't installed on your iPhone or iPad, it will open that link in Safari. Apps can provide universal links, which open the app instead of Safari when the app is installed. But that could change in the near future with a new API internally referred to as "Clips" found on iOS 14 code. As 9to5Mac has analyzed this new API, we can say that it allows developers to offer interactive and dynamic content from their apps even if you haven't installed them. The Clips API is directly related to the QR Code reader in the build we have access to, so the user can scan a code linked to an app and then interact with it directly from a card that will appear on the screen.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Watch this bird perform the most exuberant beak scratch on a man's face stubble [Boing Boing]

This is one excited sun conure. Watch as she almost blurs while grooming her beak on this man's "quarantine stubble."

Wonderful vintage clip of mod girls dancing to Desmond Dekker's "Israelites" [Boing Boing]

This vintage clip of the great Desmond Dekker (1941-2006) performing "Israelites" to a live audience including delightfully dancing mods girls is one minute and 20 seconds of pure infectious joy.

Hollow Earth Radio: "local music, found sound, paranormal encounters, crank calls, dreams, etc" [Boing Boing]

Last week David posted about the Aquarium Drunkard music stream and I quickly signed up on Patreon. I also listen to Chilled Cow, a streaming lofi hip hop radio show on YouTube. Those two streams are enough to keep me happy throughout the day, but I just came across another awesome stream: Hollow Earth Radio. Based in Seattle, it's a Low Power FM (LPFM) non-commercial DIY radio station featuring "local music, found sound, paranormal encounters, crank calls, dreams, etc! 24 hours a day!" I need three brains so I can listen to all three at once.

Image: Twitter/Hollow Earth Radio

His Royal High-ness Prince Harry’s Pot Farm, and stars with only months to live, in this week’s dubious tabloids [Boing Boing]

"His Royal High-ness!” Prince Harry is “Buying $9m Pot Farm! “ according to the ‘Globe.’

Harry has never been involved in business in his life, but allegedly “told a pal marijuana is something he likes and knows about.”

I eat bananas and know something about them too (they’re yellow, curvilinear and tasty) but I’m not about to buy a banana plantation.

Unnamed “insiders” claim that Harry will turn to Meghan’s nephew Tyler Dooley, who grows cannabis in Oregon, for advice. Yes, the nephew who Meghan hasn’t seen or spoken to for almost 30 years, the nephew whose side of the family Meghan has virtually disowned, the nephew whose family has trashed Meghan and Harry at every opportunity - that’s who he’ll turn to for advice. Right.

Comedy star Chevy Chase is the target of the ‘National Enquirer,’ which reports: “Fears Chevy Has 6 Months to Live!” Evidently Chevy's “fragile health has friends concerned the end may be near.”

But wait a second! Haven’t we heard that before? Yes, in the ‘Enquirer' in November 2016: “Chevy Chase 3 months to live!”

And let’s not forget those other great ‘Enquirer’ reports of stars’ imminent demise, by the magazine’s crack team of medical reporters:

“Oprah: Only 3 years to live! - May 2009.

“Kirstie Alley: Only 4 years to live!” - August 2009.

“Macaulay Culkin - 6 months to live!” - August 2012.

“O.J. - 4 weeks to live!” - October 2014.

“Cher has 3 months to live!” - December 2014.

“Michael Douglas cancer relapse - 3 months to live!” - February 2016.

“Nick Nolte - 4 weeks to live!” - July 2016.

With accuracy like that, Chevy Chase must be feeling pretty good about his chances.

Meanwhile another star is “eating himself to death,” reports the ‘Globe.’ “Is it a blimp? No, It’s Superman! Fears for Dean Cain as fading actor packs on the pounds.”

Whether or not Cain has gained 50 pounds as the ‘Globe' reports, on his tall frame he still looks fit and healthy, though perhaps with more of a dad bod than in his Man of Steel days three decades ago. Still, he looks great, so why the concern that he’s about to drop dead at 53 years old?

"Medical experts fear” that gaining weight “can be deadlier than kryptonite!” the rag reports. So now the ‘Globe’ team of medically-trained reporters are experts in kryptonite poisoning too? How long before President Trump is touting kryptonite as the next cure for coronavirus?

The ‘Enquirer’ cover is devoted to Prince Harry’s “Diva Duchess” wife: “Meghan’s Hollywood Dream Explodes! Anger, tears & denial as critics savage her ‘cheesy’ new movie. William mocks Harry: ‘I told you so!!’”

But the critics didn’t savage Meghan’s performance. They didn’t even savage her new Disney documentary ‘Elephant,’ but gave it modestly favorable reviews.

Any criticism that emerged was aimed mostly at the documentary’s schmaltzy script, not at Meghan’s performance as its narrator.

The rag repeats the canard that Harry begged Disney chief Bob Iger to give Meghan the voice-over gig on a London movie premiere red carpet, when we now know she had been approached to narrate ‘Elephant’ by the directors long before meeting Iger.

Long-time Hollywood couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s “Surprise Wedding!” is reported in the ‘Enquirer.’

There’s only one small detail - they’re not married.

“She’s finally ready for altar after 37 years,” claims the mag. But does anyone remember the ‘Enquirer’ telling us they were engaged and about to wed back in December 2015? Or the ‘Enquirer' story in September 2017 revealing that Kurt & Goldie had split? So why should we believe them now?

Then there’s a slew of stories that simply didn’t happen the way the tabloids tell us they did

“Navy Grounds Top Gun Tom!” claims the ‘Enquirer.’ No, they didn’t. The Navy took Cruise up in F-18 fighter jets repeatedly while filming his coming ‘Top Gun’ sequel. They just wouldn’t let him take the controls and fly the fighter himself. Not exactly grounded.

George Clooney is "Caught in Battery Nightmare!” the ‘Enquirer’ reports.

No, George Clooney hasn’t hit anyone. Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis, who Clooney dated from 2009 to 2011, has allegedly been charged with misdemeanor battery after bumping another woman’s shoulder in an argument. So how is Clooney “caught in battery nightmare”? Unnamed ”sources” claim that Elisabetta has turned to her ex for advice because Clooney’s now married to human rights lawyer Amal. Well, that makes perfect sense: If you get charged with a minor misdemeanor, you want one of the world’s leading human rights attorneys who’s married to your ex-lover representing you in court. Right.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s eldest son "Rushes Home to Save Mom Angie!” claims the ‘Enquirer.'

But did Maddox fly from South Korea to America to comfort his “emotional wreck” mom? Or could it be that he returned to America simply because his university classes in South Korea were cancelled because of the pandemic?

“Weeks after death, Kenny Rogers’ Body Still On Ice!” screams the cover of the ‘Globe.’ "Why widow won’t bury country king.”

The answer is simple and practical: She’s reportedly waiting until coronavirus lockdowns are lifted so that Rogers can have a big funeral for family, friends and fans. Hardly scandalous.

How desperate must ‘Us’ magazine be to put Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes on its cover?

“How Ryan & Eva Make It Work. Secrets of Their Amazing Love Story.”

I’m delighted for the happy couple, but I can only imagine this feature has sat in the Editor’s bottom drawer for months before it was reluctantly dragged out and slapped on the cover as celebrities hide at home and there’s nothing else to report on.

Prince Harry gets the “California Dreamin’” treatment in ‘Us’ mag, which reports: “Harry Risks It All! Hollywood or Bust!”

Allegedly “Harry sets his sights on fame and fortune.” The Prince is reportedly “determined to make it in Hollywood” says an unnamed insider. “He’ll focus on producing documentaries about charities.”

Because we all know how charity documentaries are a sure-fire path to fame and fortune, right? But that’s not the end of his unroyal ambitions. Harry also “wants some screen time too,” claims the insider. “We’ll see him on camera.” But not as a movie star, it seems. “Mostly as a spokesman. He’s not trying to be the next Brad Pitt or anything.” Phew. That must be a relief to Brad.

‘People’ magazine devotes its cover to “Murder & Mystery: The Untold Story of Tiger King.”

Actually, the true story has pretty much been fully told on screen and in the dozens of articles written in the weeks since the series first aired. ‘People’ is just jumping on the bandwagon two weeks after everyone else jumped off.

Thankfully we have the crack investigative team at ‘Us’ mag to tell us that Lucy Hale wore it best, that Sean Hayes eats a whole can of warm peas “every couple of years, when no one is around,” that Hollywood stars are “Trailblazers!” for taking a hike - though Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Zac Efron and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are all pictured out and about before hiking trails were officially closed due to the pandemic, and that the stars are just like us: they take out the trash, spring clean their garage, and get take-out food - because there’s little else that stay-at-home celebrities can do these days.

And for the second week running, ‘Us’ magazine is without its long-running full-page feature peering into the heavily curated handbag of a celebrity. Perhaps the mag realized they were just running a surreptitious ad for chewing gum, lip gloss and healing crystals each week?

Onwards and downwards . . .

NYC Mayor And NY Governor Say Social Distancing Is Working, Warn Not To Let Up [News : NPR]

Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo both pointed to signs of good news in the Coronavirus data, but said that restrictions on nonessential workers and businesses must continue.

After Reverse On Hydroxychloroquine Export Ban, India Says 'Only Meeting The Demand' [News : NPR]

President Trump has promoted the anti-malaria drug for fighting COVID-19, but scientists say more testing is needed.

After President Trump complained, India reversed its export ban on the anti-malaria drug, which Trump has touted as a coronavirus treatment. There's no clinical evidence it works against COVID-19.

(Image credit: John Locher/AP)

World Bank: Coronavirus Is Pushing Sub-Saharan Africa To First Recession In 25 Years [News : NPR]

Informal vendors gather on Wednesday in front of a municipal office building in Johannesburg to try to obtain a permit for working amid the national lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the world's fastest-growing economies. But the World Bank projects its economies could pull back as much as 5.1% this year, driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

(Image credit: Luca Sola /AFP via Getty Images)

How San Francisco's D.A. Is Decreasing The Jail Population Amid COVID-19 [News : NPR]

Chesa Boudin's radical leftist parents were imprisoned when he was a toddler. Now he's working to reduce the inmate population in San Francisco — and worrying about his dad, who remains in prison.

Google now offers a Braille keyboard for Android [The Verge - All Posts]

Google announced on Thursday that it now offers a Braille keyboard integrated directly into Android. The company says the new feature will make its operating system more accessible for people who are visually impaired, without requiring extra hardware.

The keyboard, called TalkBack, uses a six-key layout. Each key represents one of six Braille dots, which will form letters and symbols when tapped in combination. You can use TalkBack the same way you use any other keyboard: it works across all Android apps and can delete letters and submit text. It supports Braille Grade 1 and Grade 2 and is only available in English at the moment.

The keyboard is rolling out to all devices that run Android 5.0 or later starting today. To enable it, go...

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It’s time to stop debating whether a hot dog is a sandwich [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo by Ross Miller / The Verge

Few questions are as divisive as the hot dog / sandwich debate. I’ve certainly had it more times than I can count.

But what’s unique about the controversy isn’t how eager people are to argue; it’s how dead-set they are in their opinions from the get-go. Even the most ambivalent, indecisive people I know have strong opinions about the categorical identity of a hot dog. I’ve also never seen anyone change their mind on the matter. Nobody has managed to convince me that a hot dog is a sandwich. (I’m a non-sandwicher, for the record.) Our personal taxonomy is primal and ironclad.

What I also find interesting is that if you really get into the weeds of these debates, it becomes clear that...

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New Simpsons short that debuted before Pixar’s Onward is now heading to Disney Plus [The Verge - All Posts]

Just a few weeks after a new Simpsons short film hit theaters alongside Pixar’s Onward, Disney is bringing the short to Disney Plus starting on Friday, April 10th.

“Playdate with Destiny” was the second non-Pixar short to play before a Pixar movie and the first Fox property to do so since Disney acquired the company. The short stars Maggie Simpson as she’s separated from her family, embarking on a “first playdate” with a new friend. A Simpsons short playing before a Pixar movie might not make a lot of sense, but considering how important The Simpsons is to Disney Plus, having a new short available for people at home is a win for the company.

The Simpsons is a mega-popular series...

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Apple may let you try apps without installing them in iOS 14 [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Apple may let you try out parts of third-party iOS apps without installing them on your iPhone by scanning a QR code, according to code in an early build of iOS 14 reviewed by 9to5Mac. The functionality is apparently part of a new API referred to in iOS 14 as “Clips.”

The Clips API “allows developers to offer interactive and dynamic content from their apps even if you haven’t installed them,” according to 9to5Mac. When you scan a QR code, a card will apparently appear that lets you interact with the parts of an app. The card may also let users choose to download a full version of the app from the App Store or, if you already have the app that the QR code is previewing, open the interactive experience in that app.

Apple could be testing...

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Lawsuit fights new Baltimore aerial surveillance program [The Verge - All Posts]

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to stop Baltimore police from launching a sweeping “eye in the sky” surveillance program. The initiative, operated by a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), would send planes flying over Baltimore at least 40 hours a week as they almost continuously collect wide-angle photos of the city. If not blocked, a pilot program is expected to begin later this year.

The ACLU complaint, filed on behalf of Baltimore activists, describes the “Aerial Investigation Research” plan as “the most wide-reaching surveillance dragnet ever employed in an American city.” It follows an earlier, secret aerial surveillance program that was revealed in 2016. While that operation (also run by PSS) was shut...

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13:00 EDT

Trump administration pulls funding for drive-through COVID-19 testing [Ars Technica]

A drive-through COVID-19 testing site operated by Omni Healthcare in Melbourne, Fla. on April 8.

Enlarge / A drive-through COVID-19 testing site operated by Omni Healthcare in Melbourne, Fla. on April 8. (credit: Paul Hennessy | Echoes Wire | Barcroft Media | Getty Images)

One of the biggest challenges hampering US institutional response to the COVID-19 crisis is testing: when you can't identify who has the disease, you can't tell who might transmit it, or where they might do so. After critical months of delay, the US finally ramped up testing, but now, just as experts forecast many states are heading into the peak of this emergency, the federal government is ending funding for some successful testing programs.

The feds will stop covering the tab for most community testing sites as of Friday (tomorrow), April 10, NPR reports.

These popular drive-through sites have helped bolster other testing efforts in counties, towns, and cities nationwide. NPR spoke with officials in Pennsylvania's Montgomery County who said their drive-through site has tested at least 250 individuals per day since opening on March 21. By the time it closes Friday due to lack of funding, officials said, more than 5,000 tests will have been performed at that site.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Cloudflare Dumps reCAPTCHA as Google Intends To Charge For Its Use [Slashdot]

Internet web infrastructure company Cloudflare announced plans to drop support for Google's reCAPTCHA service and move to a new bot detection provider named hCaptcha. From a report: Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince said the move was motivated by Google's future plans to charge for the use of the reCAPTCHA service, which would have "added millions of dollars in annual costs" for his company, costs that Cloudflare would have undoubtedly had to unload on its customers. "That is entirely within their right," Prince said yesterday. "Cloudflare, given our volume, no doubt imposed significant costs on the reCAPTCHA service, even for Google." "If the value of the image classification training did not exceed those costs, it makes perfect sense for Google to ask for payment for the service they provide," he added.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Chinese Cybercriminals Target High-Value Linux Servers With Weak Defenses: BlackBerry [Slashdot]

Linux malware is real and Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups have been infiltrating critical servers with these tools for at least eight years, according to a new report from BlackBerry. From a report: In "Decade of the RATs: Cross-Platform APT Espionage Attacks Targeting Linux, Windows and Android," security researchers found that these groups have attacked companies around the world and across all industries with goals ranging from simple cybercrime to full-blown economic espionage. The RATs report describes how five APT groups are working with the Chinese government and the remote access trojans (RATs) the cybercriminals are using to get and maintain access to Linux servers. According to the report, the groups appeared to be using WINNTI-style tooling to take aim at Linux servers and remain relatively undetected for almost a decade. These groups are targeting Red Hat Enterprise, CentOS, and Ubuntu Linux environments for espionage and intellectual property theft. The APT groups examined include the original WINNTI GROUP, PASSCV, BRONZE UNION, CASPER (LEAD), and a newly identified group BlackBerry researchers are tracking as WLNXSPLINTER. The BlackBerry researchers think all five groups are working together, given the distinct similarities in their preferred tools, tactics, and procedures.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Introverts' joy of lockdown getting ruined by extroverts filling their schedules with video appointments [Boing Boing]

Introverts were enjoying the lockdown. Suddenly they had no social obligations nor the social anxiety that goes along with declining invitations, canceling them, or attending them. Introverts were reading, gardening, baking, making things, learning languages, sharpening skills, and basking in quietude.

The extroverts, however, took note of this new state of affairs and declared it intolerable. Invitations for online gatherings began pouring in and, for introverts, social anxiety is creeping back.

From Abby Ohlheiser's article in Technology Review:

Calendars that had been cleared by social distancing suddenly refilled as friends, family, and acquaintances made plans to sip “quarantinis” at Zoom happy hours, hold Netflix viewing parties, or just catch up over Google hangouts.


Turning down invitations to talk to people during a global pandemic can simultaneously be needed self-care and something that makes you feel like a bad friend. After all, how do you tell your group chat of college friends that you just need a night alone at home when you’re alone at home all the time?

“There’s no way you can pass that off as having other plans,” says Jaya Saxena, a staff writer at Eater, who is currently socially distancing with her spouse in her apartment in Queens, New York. “The only excuse is ‘I don’t want to,’ and no one wants to hear that right now.”

It was too good to last.

Photo by Miguel Teirlinck on Unsplash

Tessie and Binnie, the US Army's psychic dogs [Boing Boing]

JB Rhine (1895-1980), the founder of parapsychology, spent the bulk of his career attempting to scientifically investigate ESP, psychokinesis, and clairvoyance at Duke University. While Rhine debunked numerous claims, he also reported on many experiments that he argued were evidence of psi phenomena. In 1952, the US Army consulted with Rhine on their idea to use psychic powers to detect landmines. The psychics weren't people though; they were German Shepherds named Tessie and Binnie. From author Nick Redfern's retelling of the weird tale over at Mysterious Universe:

Although Fort Belvoir was the place from where the work was coordinated, the actual tests took place on stretches of quiet California beaches. A contingent of soldiers, Rhine, Binnie and Tessie hit the beach and the work began. The role of the troops was to bury dummy mines (thankfully!) at varying depths in the sand and to see if the dogs could locate them. To begin with, both dogs were kept in the back of a covered, military truck – to ensure that they couldn’t see what was going on at that same stretch of beach. That is, until it was time for the operations to begin.

Incredibly, it didn’t take Binnie and Tessie long to find the fake mines. The work progressed and the military was impressed. But, was it all coincidence and random luck? To ensure that wasn’t the case, the Army began to make it more and more difficult for Tessie and Binnie to find the mines. Instead of just burying the bogus mines deep in the sand, they took the devices into the water – to depths of about six or seven feet – and had the pair try and find them. They succeeded. The dogs raced into the ocean water, dived below, then surfaced, barking excitedly when they found the mines. It was the water-based experiments that impressed the military most of all. Rhine told the Army: “There is at least no known way in which the dogs could have located the underwater mines except by extrasensory perception.”

"Psychic Dogs of the U.S. Military: Tessie & Binnie" (Weird Universe)

For more on the US military's fascination with psychic spies and fringe science, might I suggest you read: Jon Ronson's "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and Jim Schnabel's "Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America's Psychic Spies."

illustrative image: adapted version of "Sable German Shepherds" by Sablegsd (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Recently discovered: Eiffel's drawings for a slightly different Statue of Liberty [Boing Boing]

In 2018, Barry Lawrence Ruderman, a rare map dealer from California, bought a folder of documents and blueprints related to the Statue of Liberty. What they didn't realize is that the lot contained almost two dozen original engineering drawings for the Statue produced by Gustav Eiffel's workshop. Ruderman and Alex Clausen, director of Ruderman's gallery, hope to eventually show the drawings at a museum but for now you can inspect scans they posted online. Greg Miller writes in Smithsonian:

Berenson thinks the drawings may nail down something that historians have long suspected but not been able to prove: that Bartholdi disregarded Eiffel's engineering plans when it came to the statue's upraised arm, electing to make it thinner and tilted outward for dramatic and aesthetic appeal. Several drawings appear to depict a bulkier shoulder and more vertical arm—a more structurally sound arrangement. But one of these sketches (below) was marked up by an unidentified hand with red ink that tilts the arm outward, as Bartholdi wanted. “This could be evidence for a change in the angle that we ended up with in the real Statue of Liberty,” Berenson says. “It looks like somebody is trying to figure out how to change the angle of the arm without wrecking the support.”

The date on that sketch, July 28, 1882, as well as dates on several pages of handwritten calculations and diagrams pertaining to the arm, suggest that this change was made after much of the statue had already been built. “It’s really late in the game,” Berenson says. (Construction of the statue stretched from 1876 to 1884; after being packed in crates and shipped to New York, it was finally dedicated on October 28, 1886.)

"Recently Discovered Drawings for the Statue of Liberty Hint at a Last-Minute Change" (Smithsonian)

images: Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.

'This Is Not Humanity's First Plague,' Pope Francis Says Of Coronavirus [News : NPR]

Pope Francis hailed "the saints who live next door" during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying doctors and others who are still working are heroes. The pope is seen here celebrating Palm Sunday Mass behind closed doors because of the coronavirus.

The pope says the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing hypocrisy and misplaced priorities in the modern world, as he calls on people to remember their shared humanity.

(Image credit: Alberto Pizzoli/AP)

Senate Democrats Block GOP Effort To Boost Small-Business Aid [News : NPR]

"We need more funding — and we need it fast," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Democrats want to funnel the extra funding through community-based financial institutions, which they say help businesses owned by minorities, veterans and rural Americans across the country.

(Image credit: Patrick Semansky/AP)

'Zoombombing' City Hall: Online Harassment Surges As Public Meetings Go Virtual [News : NPR]

Governments, like businesses and other organizations, are working remotely and holding online meetings. They

Racist and pornographic attacks on video conferences are a problem for anyone holding online meetings, but especially for governments and organizations that must make their meetings public.

(Image credit: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Fauci Says U.S. Coronavirus Deaths May Be 'More Like 60,000'; Antibody Tests On Way [News : NPR]

"I think the American public have done a really terrific job of just buckling down and doing those physical separation and adhering to those guidelines," National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.

The predicted death toll has fallen, Dr. Anthony Fauci says, because of Americans' embrace of physical separation and other restrictions.

(Image credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Coronaplague in Maine [Philip Greenspun’s Weblog]

A friend has escaped with his family to Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park and quiet summer playground of the rich (notably the Rockefellers). The airport was busy for a time pumping Jet A into the Gulfstreams that were dropping off elite New Yorkers fleeing Wuhan-on-the-Hudson.

If the state-by-state model is correct, those who fled to Maine made a wise choice. The state is not forecast to run out of either hospital or ICU beds (neither are neighboring New Hampshire or Vermont).

It looks as though the trails of Acadia are still open, even if the park roads and carriage roads are closed. The governor has issued a “stay at home” order, but the local sheriff says:

First and foremost, lets quash some rumors out of the gate. There are absolutely, positively NO plans to participate in random motor vehicle stops and/or check points to actively look for and arrest violators of the Governor’s order. Although this an order issued by the Governor, you retain your constitutional rights and we respect that. Please note, however, we are sworn to uphold the Constitution and laws of the State of Maine and, to that end, we are prepared to enforce the Governor’s order in the event of blatant and overtly defiant violations.

From the police log:

A Lamoine woman called the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office Monday with concerns she had about neighbors having more than 10 guests at a time at their residences despite Governor Janet Mills’ recommendation against such gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak.

I wonder if these states break the model. As of 4/8, Vermont was supposed to have experienced peak resource demand on April 1. A total of 47 Vermonters will die, say the prophets. That’s out of a population of more than 625,000. The disease will never spread around Burlington, a reasonably dense urban environment that is packed with visitors? People who live in Southern New Hampshire often commute to plague-afflicted Boston for work. Yet the entire state is supposed to have only 66 deaths out of 1.35 million residents. The model assumes social distancing through May 2020, but the deaths are through August 4, 2020. If society reopens on June 1, won’t there be exponential growth in New Hampshire seeded from those who commute to Boston? (Even now, righteous Democrats are driving to Walmart and other places in New Hampshire so as to avoid paying sales tax here in the Land of Big Government.)

How do people in this lonely-yet-connected corner of New England escape COVID-19?

Yelp lays off 1,000 employees as restaurants struggle [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: Yelp

Yelp laid off 1,000 employees and furloughed an additional 1,100 workers today as it struggles with reduced spending from restaurants.

Yelp co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman sent out an email to employees on Thursday announcing that, due to the impact of the pandemic, the company would need to decrease the number of employees through a combination of layoffs and furloughs. At the same time, some of its staff would have its work hours reduced. Yelp declined to comment on which of its employees were affected by the workforce reduction.

“Yelp connects people with these great local businesses,” Stoppelman said in the company-wide email. “These businesses are understandably...

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Verge readers can save $60 on the Nest Learning Thermostat [The Verge - All Posts]

Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature in your home, making you more comfortable while you’re there and saving you money on energy costs when you’re not. You can also adjust the temperature from anywhere, inside or outside, with your phone. For a limited time, Daily Steals is offering readers of The Verge a discount on the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat, which is the latest model even though it released in 2015.

It’s normally $250 through the Google Store (and as low as $220 through Amazon third-party sellers), but you can get one right now for $190 with the offer code VERGETHRM added at checkout. For context on this deal, it’s within $10 of the excellent Cyber Monday deal we saw last year.


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VENN wants to re-create the magic of G4TV but with YouTube and Twitch stars [The Verge - All Posts]

VENN, otherwise known as the Video Game and Entertainment News Network, wants to succeed where G4TV failed by launching a television channel entirely dedicated to gaming that appeals to both hardcore esports fans and people with a casual interest in video games.

The network plans to offer a constant schedule of highly produced shows that revolve around professional esports, gaming culture, and video game news. Live and prerecorded shows with charismatic hosts, including a number of Twitch streamers and YouTube creators, will air throughout the day. VENN hasn’t said where its channel will be carried just yet, but the intention is to have it bundled alongside other niche channels in a cable package. Some content will also stream on Twitch...

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I opened my Animal Crossing island to strangers on Twitter, and it wasn’t a complete disaster [The Verge - All Posts]

Image courtesy of Twitter user @wcharleyw

Shortly after noon on a Tuesday, I popped into Animal Crossing: New Horizons to check on turnip prices. Today’s number? A tasty 439 bells, four times the price I picked them up for. I turned a profit worth hundreds of thousands, invited friends to come by, and then decided to go one step further: offer access to my island via a shareable code, which I broadcasted on Twitter. It was instant chaos.

One of the riskier ways to turn a profit in New Horizons involves playing the “stalk” market — buying turnips on Sundays before noon and then figuring out what day is your best chance to sell them. Wait too long (or attempt to cheat by changing your Switch’s date settings to time-travel), and they’ll rot. Prices change twice a day, every day....

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These photos and videos of baby clouded leopards and cheetahs are a gift [The Verge - All Posts]

Zoo Miami

Lo, unto you, four cheetah cubs and two clouded leopard kittens have been born. Cat lovers on the internet can now coo over the rare infant cats, thanks to Washington, DC’s National Zoo “Cheetah Cub Cam” and recently released photos from Zoo Miami.

A five-year-old cheetah, Echo, gave birth to four cubs on April 8th, and it was all caught on webcam. Anyone at home can see the cubs in real time since the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is sharing the same live stream that its staff is watching to keep an eye on the newborns from a distance. They’re giving Echo space to bond with her cubs without being bothered by people.

“I’m eager to watch the newborn cubs in their early days,” Steve Monfort, the John and Adrienne Mars director at the...

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No one’s getting new emoji in 2021 because of the pandemic [The Verge - All Posts]

Upside Down Emoji

The pandemic is even affecting emoji. The Unicode Consortium, the group behind emoji releases, announced today that it’s delaying its version planned for 2021, meaning that devices won’t receive new emoji next year and instead will get a release in 2022. The good news is that the emoji that were announced earlier this year, like the olive, beaver, and plunger, will still be available this fall. Unicode says the delay is happening because it relies on volunteers who are currently overwhelmed dealing with the pandemic.

“Under the current circumstances we’ve heard that our contributors have a lot on their plates at the moment and decided it was in the best interests of our volunteers and the organizations that depend on the standard to push...

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Google’s midrange Pixel 4A could launch soon, and there may not be an XL version [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo by Evan Blass

There have been rumors and leaks aplenty about the Google Pixel 4A, but they’re starting to bubble up even more today. 9to5Google published what it claims is a complete set of specs for the Pixel 4A, and most intriguing of all, it says that Google won’t be releasing a Pixel 4A XL. The Pixel 4A will instead split the difference in size between the prior models, with a 5.8-inch display that’s a little larger than the 5.6-inch Pixel 3A but slightly smaller than the 6-inch Pixel 3A XL.

Most of what’s reported aligns with what we’ve already heard about the 4A, like that it will house the Snapdragon 730 processor, feature 6GB of RAM, and have a single 12.2MP rear-facing lens. It is also said to have a headphone jack. Though, there are a few...

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12:00 EDT

Don't Expect Any Windows 10X Devices This Calendar Year, Says Microsoft [Slashdot]

Microsoft is setting internal expectations that it won't deliver any Windows 10X devices in calendar 2020, ZDNet reports. From a report: This isn't really surprising, given what's going on externally with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. But for enthusiasts who were looking forward to dual-screen Surface Neo devices this holiday season, the reality is taking root. My contacts say that Chief Product Officer Panos Panay informed some of his team internally today, April 8, that Microsoft wouldn't be delivering its own Surface Neo dual-screen 10X devices this calendar year. In addition, Microsoft also won't be enabling third-party dual-screen Windows devices to ship with 10X in calendar 2020, I hear.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

What the hell are Git and GitHub? [Boing Boing]

Have you ever read about an interesting app, only to click the link and find yourself on a GitHub page? If you're a coder, then you will be happy about it, but if you're like me, you will scratch your head for a while, open the readme file, and start copying and pasting linux commands into a terminal window with fingers crossed. Even after watching this video I will keep doing this, but at least I know what GitHub is now.

Video of desolate Tokyo streets [Boing Boing]

Japan is under a state of emergency. Nippon wandering TV took an hour long bike ride through Tokyo's Akihabara district to reveal the nearly empty streets and sidewalks.

Compare to this short video of Akihabara I shot in the the summer of 2018:

Artist reimagines classic horror films as vintage Disney children's books [Boing Boing]

Swedish artist Daniel Björk is the mad mind behind these wonderfully evil visions of classic horror films reimagined as Disney's Wonderful World of Reading vintage children's books. My wish upon a star is that they were real! See more at Björk's Instagram.

Automating fake PDF signatures [Boing Boing]

Cory reports on a gem of a utility called Falsisign.

Falsisign takes in 27 variants of your signature and then feeds these sigs and your PDF to it, with the (x,y) for each signature blank as arguments, and it will produce a slightly off-center, slightly degraded new PDF that looks like you actually signed it.

Life before Falsisign:

  1. Receive document as an attached PDF
  2. Paste a digital scan of your signature on the signature lines of the document
  3. Return "signed" document by email
  4. Receive email from person who sent the document telling you that you have to actually print the PDF sign it, scan it, and email it back
  5. Print the PDF
  6. Sign it
  7. Scan it
  8. Email it back

Life after Falsisign:

  1. Receive document as attached PDF
  2. Run
  3. Email it back




11:00 EDT

China suffers its second launch failure in less than a month [Ars Technica]

A Long March 3B rocket lifts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in 2018.

Enlarge / A Long March 3B rocket lifts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in 2018. (credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Long March 3B rocket is one of China's oldest active and most reliable boosters, with more than five dozen successful launches. On Thursday, however, the rocket failed when it attempted to launch an Indonesian telecommunications satellite, Nusantara Dua, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Although ground-based observations showed the first and second stages of the rocket performing nominally, apparently something went wrong with the final stage needed for a boost into geostationary transfer orbit. Chinese media reports indicate that the third stage failed due to unspecified reasons and that the 5.5-ton satellite fell back into Earth's atmosphere.

This is China's second failure in eight launch attempts this year, and the second in less than a month. On March 16, the launch of the relatively new Long March 7A failed to reach orbit after lifting off from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site.

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US Senate tells members not to use Zoom [Ars Technica]

Photograph of US Capitol building.

Enlarge (credit: Martin Falbisoner / Wikimedia Commons)

The US Senate has become the latest organization to tell its members not to use Zoom because of concerns about data security on the video conferencing platform that has boomed in popularity during the coronavirus crisis.

The Senate sergeant at arms has warned all senators against using the service, according to three people briefed on the advice.

One person who had seen the Senate warning said it told each senator’s office to find an alternative platform to use for remote working while many parts of the US remain in lockdown. But the person added it had stopped short of officially banning the company’s products.

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