Supplies no longer HP Ink’s licence to, er, print money

A respected Wall Street analyst has downgraded HP Inc’s share rating on the back of worries that its PC division won’t be able to sustain the growth numbers it has been banking, which paper over the cracks in the print supplies business.

The company is currently trying to dig itself out a hole of its own making: it mis-forecast toner cartridge revenues in EMEA for FY’19 that started in October last year, not factoring in the burgeoning demand for cloned or remanufactured alternatives or – seemingly – that businesses are printing less than they used to.

This was a costly mistake and one that sources claimed led to the abrupt recent exit of EMEA boss Nick Lazaridis.

Now Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi downgraded the company’s share rating from outperform to market perform, meaning the HP is expected to be in line with competitors, rather than outdoing them.

“We worry that printing may be facing greater structural headwinds from the shift to digital (i.e people printing less) and increased pressure from cloned/ remanufactured supply,” the financial analyst stated. “In short, there is a higher likelihood the printing business is a ‘melting ice-cube’ – despite myriad efforts by HP to improve the business,” he stated in a report seen by The Register.

HP, like Dell and Lenovo, has caught the wave of customers that are escaping Windows 7 as Microsoft prepares to pulls down the shutters on extended support for the OS in January. This upgrade cycle though has a shelf life and this, along with US-China trade tensions, is what worries the analyst.

Sacconaghi said:

Year to date, HP has made up for its earnings shortfall in printing with cyclical strength in PCs. However, we worry about the sustainability of recent PC strength – management has acknowledged that margins are unsustainably high due to recent component cost declines, and the company appears to be benefiting from a corporate upgrade cycle that it will lap in FY20, at which point US laptop sales may also be subject to 10 per cent tariffs.

And herein lies the rub: PCs generate roughly two-thirds of HP Inc’s revenues, but historically they only accounted for one-third of the company’s operating profit. Another key figure is that annual printing revenue has declined from $26bn in 2011 (PDF) to $20.8bn in 2018 (PDF).

“Thus, the long-term trajectory of printing supplies growth is crucial to determining HP’s terminal value,” the report stated.

Bernstein added the “credibility” of senior management had been “seriously undermined by having guided down supplies twice in a year”, and felt the new CEO Enrique Lores – who replaced Dion Weisler recently and was formerly president of HP’s imaging, printing and solutions group – is “unproven”.

Weisler worked at the company for six years and led the business as it undocked from the HP mothership. During his time, the company gave Lenovo more than a run for its money in the PC market and bet big on the A3 copier market by buying Samsung’s division, as well as buying print service house Apogee. He quit the company over a family health matter.

According to Gartner’s shipment figures, HP was in second spot behind Lenovo in the global PC market in Q2 – along with Dell, the three companies accounted for more than 64 per cent of total sales.

The Register has asked HP Inc to comment. ®

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Brewed with ice cream … and no meat at all!

Beer o’clock starts at 4pm today at Leeds-based North Brewing Co‘s tap room where it will be launching a sour beer that “pushes the boundaries of taste, flavour and colour”.

Forget your hoity-toity cloudy lemon ales from Holland; this one’s a manly bright pink and made in Yorkshire.

The Vegan Sorbet Sour is brewed with organic raspberry puree and forced Yorkshire rhubarb supplied by locally famed fruit and veg producers E Olroyd & Sons within the notorious “Rhubarb Triangle“. It is the result of an arguably unholy alliance between North Brewing Co and another Leeds-based hipster company, Northern Bloc, which describes itself as “ice cream alchemists”.

The brewer said it had previously enjoyed quite a bit of success with its thick Triple Fruited Gose beers, which it introduced in March last year. As the name suggests, this contains three times the amount of fruit you might find in other fruited sour beers. Tasters refer to the mouthfeel as akin to that of a smoothie.

This year, the company began looking for lactose-free alternatives for thickening their fruited sour beers and hit on the idea of approaching Northern Bloc, a specialist in making vegan ice cream and sorbet. The Vegan Sorbet Sour is essentially based on Northern Bloc’s rhubarb and raspberry ice cream.

Don’t argue about the name.

After today’s launch at North Brewing’s in-house Brewery Tap venue, the new bright pink smoothie beer will go on general release from Monday, available on tap and in 440ml cans. It’s an easy-drinking 4.8 per cent and here at Reg Towers we wonder if it counts as one of your five-a-day.

Health drink or not, we rely upon readers to tell us what colour it turns your, er, you know. ®

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Blokes left in legal limbo amid electronic records audit

Two men hired to assess a court record system’s computer security were arrested Wednesday – after they were caught physically sneaking into a courthouse.

According to the Des Moines Register today, infosec pros Gary Demercurio and Justin Wynn were cuffed by deputies in Iowa, USA, after they tripped an intruder alarm at a Dallas County courthouse.

The two men, who now face burglary charges, said they were attempting the break-in as part of a penetration test the county court had paid their employer, security biz Coalfire, to perform against the court’s electronic records system.

In other words, the ethical hacker duo were pen-testers just trying to get physical access to computers managing or storing court records as part of a planned security test.

Here’s where things jump the tracks. The Dallas County court officials fully acknowledged they hired the two experts to test the security of their IT system. The bureaucrats were, however, unaware the tests could also involve physical break-ins, it is claimed.

“The two men arrested work for a company hired by [the state court administration, or SCA] to test the security of the court’s electronic records,” Iowa’s judicial branch said in a statement on the matter.

“The company was asked to attempt unauthorized access to court records through various means to learn of any potential vulnerabilities. SCA did not intend, or anticipate, those efforts to include the forced entry into a building.”

Those familiar with pen-testing procedures were quick to point out just what a colossal failure had to occur to create these sort of circumstances.

So, while it seems that the whole thing will be settled shortly, as of Thursday the two men remain in police custody – a court date is reportedly set for September 23 – on $50,000 bond. Coalfire has yet to respond to requests for comment. ®

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Bug-hunter says Cupertino won’t even pay $1 reward for security hole

Video Apple’s very latest version of iOS appears to have the same sort of lock-screen bypass that plagued previous versions of the iThing firmware.

Researcher Jose Rodriguez told The Register that back in July he discovered how the then-beta-now-gold version of iOS 13 could be fooled into showing an iPhone’s address book without ever having to unlock the screen.

The procedure, demonstrated below in a video, involves receiving a call and opting to respond with a text message, and then changing the “to” field of the message, which can be accomplished via voice-over. The “to” field pulls up the owner’s contacts list, thus giving an unauthorized miscreant the ability to crawl through the address book without ever needing to actually unlock the phone.

To be clear, you need to have your hands physically on a victim’s device, and call it from another phone, to exploit this shortcoming. You can also prevent this all from happening, apparently, by disabling “reply with message” in your iDevice’s Face ID & Passcode settings, under the the “allow access when locked” section. By default, this feature is enabled, leaving iOS 13 users at risk out of the box.

Youtube Video

Similar unlock workarounds have been demonstrated by Rodriguez and other researchers in the past.

These sort of information-disclosure bugs are generally considered low-risk security flaws, and are not quite at the level of critical vulnerabilities that allow remote code execution or one-touch pwnage flaws that bring seven-figure payouts from some platforms.

Still, you would think the discovery would at least net some sort of acknowledgement and reward from Apple. Rodriguez tells The Reg that when he contacted Apple staff about the find, he was given the cold shoulder – because researchers can’t claim bug rewards on beta builds of the operating system, apparently.

Breaking news: Apple un-breaks break on jailbreak break

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“I contacted Apple asking for a gift in thanks for reporting a passcode bypass, Apple agreed to give me a gift,” Rodriguez recounts.

“I reported the security problem and then Apple retracted, apologized and told me that it was not allowed to thank by giving gifts for security reports during beta period.”

The “gift” in question? A $1 Apple Store card to keep as a trophy. It was not the monetary payout Rodriguez was interested in, rather the recognition from Apple for his latest find.

Not only that, but Rodriguez says that, despite sounding the alarm on the blunder months ago, his bypass method still works on the most recent gold builds of iOS 13, which will be officially released later this month and power Cupertino’s forthcoming iThings. We’ll have to see if shipping gear still suffers the issue.

Apple has yet to comment on the matter. ®

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YouTube’s algorithm promotes fake cancer cures in a number of languages and the site runs adverts for major brands and universities next to misleading videos, a BBC investigation has found.

Searching YouTube across 10 languages, the BBC found more than 80 videos containing health misinformation – mainly bogus cancer cures. Ten of the videos found had more than a million views. Many were accompanied by adverts.

The unproven “cures” often involved consuming specific substances, such as turmeric or baking soda. Juice diets or extreme fasting were also common themes. Some YouTubers advocated drinking donkey’s milk or boiling water. None of the so-called cures offered are clinically proven to treat cancer.

Appearing before the fake cancer cure videos were adverts for well-known brands including Samsung, Heinz and Clinique.

YouTube’s advertising system means that both the Google-owned company and the video makers are making money from the misleading clips.

Shut down in English – but not other languages

In January, YouTube announced they would be “reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways—such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness.”

But the company said the change would initially only affect recommendations of a very small set of videos in the United States, and does not apply in languages other than English.

The BBC search covered English, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Hindi, German, Ukrainian, French and Italian.

We found, for example, that in Russian, a simple search for “cancer treatment” leads to videos advocating drinking baking soda. Watching these videos in turn led to recommendations for other unproven “treatments” such as carrot juice or extreme fasting.

Erin McAweeney, a research analyst at the Data & Society institute, explained that because YouTube’s algorithm recommends similar videos to the ones you have just watched, it is continuously “carving a path” from one video to the next, regardless of the credibility of the advice offered within.

“Someone can start out on a credible video and be suggested to watch a juice cure video next. A recommendation system doesn’t know credible from non-credible content.” McAweeney says.

YouTube has stated that its recommendation system – which has been accused of leading users down rabbit holes of conspiracy theories and radicalisation – would change, recommending videos that are credible and trustworthy to people that are watching videos that might not be.

YouTube’s Community Guidelines ban harmful content including: “Promoting dangerous remedies or cures: content which claims that harmful substances or treatments can have health benefits.”

Many of the fake cancer cures the BBC found, such as juicing, were not in themselves harmful, but could indirectly damage a cancer sufferer’s health – for instance, if they neglect conventional medical approaches in favour of the so-called cures.

Making money with misinformation

Researchers from BBC Monitoring and BBC News Brasil were served a range of adverts before the fake cure videos.

In addition to Samsung, Heinz and Clinique, the BBC saw adverts for travel website Booking.com and writing app Grammarly, for Hollywood films, and for British universities including the University of East Anglia and the University of Gloucestershire. All of the ads appeared alongside potentially harmful misinformation.

The companies and universities distanced themselves from the misleading content.

Samsung said the campaign they were running had “no connection or correlation” with the fake cancer cure video ran after it. “Samsung follows and insists on the highest brand safety guidelines on all advertising platforms it uses,” the company said in a statement.

Kraft Heinz said that it “has a number of both automated and human controls continuously in place to ensure we avoid our advertising running with inappropriate content.

“This particular instance is concerning to us and we have taken steps to block this channel.”

Grammarly, a company whose adverts appeared 20 times alongside fake cancer cure videos views by BBC researchers, said: “Upon learning of this, we immediately contacted YouTube to pull our ads from any such channels and to ensure the ads will not appear alongside content promulgating misinformation.”

Clinique owner Estee Lauder and Booking.com did not respond to requests for comment.

The two universities said that their adverts appeared next to misleading videos just once each, and that the channels were blocked from their advertising campaigns after being contacted by the BBC.

The University of East Anglia, which has its own cancer research programme, said: “No payment was made by the university [specifically for the advert which ran next to the fake cure video] and we have contacted Google to ensure that placement does not happen again.”

The University of Gloucestershire said: “When advertising on YouTube, content changes quickly and even the most attentive human and technological effort can require constant diligence. As such we are continuously working with Google to ensure this type of placement doesn’t occur again.”

How does YouTube decide what adverts you see?

Adverts on YouTube can be targeted to particular regions or audiences. The systems that determine which ad to show to which person at which time are complicated, explains Tim Schmoyer, founder of the YouTube consultancy Video Creators.

“YouTube optimizes the experience to show the right ads to the right people at the right time in order to minimize abandonment from the platform and provide most value to the advertiser, creator, and to themselves, of course,” he says.

YouTube also has the power to “demonetise” certain channels – in other words, to prevent video makers from making any revenue from advertising.

The site has made moves to demonetise channels which spreading anti-vaccine misinformation, for example.

Demonitising may prevent video makers from making money, but it does not necessarily prevent their videos from going viral, according to McAweeney from Data & Society, who says that says “no evidence shows that demonetising solves the issue of audience size and reach”.

“There are many motivations behind spreading health misinformation and disinformation, money is only one among them,” she says. “In most cases, getting attention and views on a video is more valuable for these actors than the money it generates.”

The BBC passed on details of the fake cure videos to YouTube, and contacted the creators of five of them.

One Russian YouTuber, Tatyana Efimova, who advocated the baking soda “cure”, made clear in her video that she is not a doctor. She said that she was telling a personal story of someone she knew and that it is up to viewers to decide whether to take baking soda or not. After being contacted by the BBC she removed the video and said: “It is not that important for me.”

Elizeu Correia, a Brazilian YouTuber, said his video claiming that bitter gourd tea can fight tumours “is not about a dangerous or poisonous tea”. He then made the video private, so it is not available to view to the general public.

Shunyakal, a Hindi-language media organisation, didn’t respond directly to the BBC’s request for comment, but their video about a non-medical cancer treatment centre was removed from their public channel after we contacted them. Before its removal, it had been viewed more than 1.4 million times.

The BBC also contacted Khawla Aissane, who promoted donkey’s milk as a cure, but she didn’t respond.

YouTube declined a request for an interview. In a statement the company said: “Misinformation is a difficult challenge, and we have taken a number of steps to address this including showing more authoritative content on medical issues, showing information panels with credible sources, and removing ads from videos that promote harmful health claims.

“Our systems are not perfect but we’re constantly making improvements, and we remain committed to progress in this space.”

Health community

Some YouTube videos found in the BBC’s research included caveats about the need to seek professional medical advice, but many promoted their cures as an alternative to conventional cancer treatments.

“Some of the things on YouTube and the internet are really, positively dangerous, and it’s unfiltered,” commented Prof Justin Stebbing, a leading cancer specialist at Imperial College London.

Experts also pointed to the perils of a user-generated site like YouTube, where video producers and the people within the company making decisions about content in many cases do not have a medical background.

“We are asking corporations with people who are not experts in healthcare and public health to make those judgements on behalf of all citizens,” says Isaac Chun-Hai Fung, an associate professor of epidemiology at Georgia Southern University.

Dr Fung and his students researched health information in English on YouTube. They found that regardless of the topic, the majority of the 100 most popular YouTube videos were uploaded by amateurs – people who are not healthcare or science professionals.

Part of the solution, he says, is for professionals to create more content.

“There should be high-quality education videos in multiple languages for non-professionals. Healthcare professionals should work with media professionals. I don’t think there’s enough investment in that.”

What did you think of this story?

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But Trump Administration seemingly unbothered

After months of speculation about who exactly was behind a series of eavesdropping fake cell towers in Washington DC, it appears the answer is Israel.

According to three anonymous senior US officials, cited in a report by Politico, the FBI carried out a counterintelligence investigation into who was behind the mobile spying installations – following a number of news reports of unusual cell activity – and concluded pretty quickly that the US ally was behind them.

“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” a former senior intelligence official told the publication. Two other officials confirmed that official conclusion that other nation states – including China and Russia – had been ruled out and Israel was almost certainly responsible. The conclusion appears to have been reached through observation of how the data was pulled from the devices.

But despite that conclusion, and pressure from lawmakers, it appears that the Trump Administration actively decided not to push the issue, even though the target of the surveillance effort was almost certainly the president himself. President Trump has been criticized for using insecure communications – namely, his personal cell phone – to communicate with people outside the White House.

A president’s communications are usually strongly shielded from others’ ears, for obvious reasons, with calls made on secure lines and operators ensuring direct connections. But President Trump appears to revel in ignoring presidential protocol and, alongside his controversial Twitter use, frequently uses a personal cell phone to call people to ask their advice.

The cellphone simulators work by announcing themselves as cell phone towers and then pass the information on to real towers, while recording the phone’s information that passes through them.

Opaque

They have been used extensively by the FBI and local police forces but their functioning and use has been fiercely protected for years, with law enforcement repeatedly dropping criminal cases rather than provides details of how they are deployed.

That level of secrecy is likely to have contributed to the decision to deploy them: with everyone refusing to acknowledge their existence, it might pass under the radar. Plus, of course, gaining direct access to the president’s, or his advisers, private phone calls could yield hugely valuable intelligence.

Back in April, several senior Congressmen demanded “immediate action” over the mysterious fake cell towers and sent a letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai asking him to “address the prevalence of what could be hostile, foreign cell-site simulators, or Stingrays, surveilling Americans in the nation’s Capital.”

The FCC, as ever, did nothing. But Homeland Security did hold a briefing with the lawmakers and, according to a subsequent letter [PDF], provided them with a confidential briefing about what it had discovered.

It’s not clear why the information claiming Israel being behind the hacking effort has come out now, although it is notable that two days ago President Trump fired his national security adviser John Bolton and the next day was followed out the door by a number of his staff.

One of the anonymous sources, named as a “former senior intelligence official” was critical of the Trump Administration’s response to the conclusion that the Israelis were behind an effort to bug the president.

Calculations

“The reaction was very different than it would have been in the last administration,” they were quoted as saying. “With the current administration, there are a different set of calculations in regard to addressing this.”

Hold the phone: Mystery fake cell towers spotted slurping comms around Washington DC

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Normally capturing a foreign government’s spying efforts would result in a formal reprimand but apparently that didn’t happen in this case. “I’m not aware of any accountability at all,” the former official said.

Of course Israel has denied any involvement, with even the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu being forced to answer to the allegation. “We have a directive, I have a directive: No intelligence work in the United States, no spies,” he told reporters on Thursday. “It is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”

Based on his reaction to similar denials by people like Russian president Vladimir Putin, President Trump no doubt believes – or chooses to believe – that Netanyahu is telling the truth. But back in the real world, Israel is renowned for its intelligence services’ aggression and willingness to cross lines that most other security services will not.

In the meantime, if you’re not in the DC area, you can still have your private communications intercepted by the cops in Boston or – if you are a fried chicken thief – in Maryland. ®

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Digital dosh scorned as a threat to national sovereignty

On Thursday Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency has received a Gallic dismissal courtesy of France’s finance minister.

Speaking at the OECD Global Blockchain Policy Forum 2019, a virtual currency conference, Bruno Le Maire said Libra poses certain difficulties in terms of financial transactions and opined that thought needs to be given to creating a public digital currency.

“With the Libra project, the monetary sovereignty of [European] States is at stake,” said Le Maire. “In these circumstances, we can not authorize the development of Libra on European soil.”

In his speech, Le Maire said Libra poses risks not only to sovereignty but to consumers and companies. And he expressed concern that the digital credits could facilitate money laundering and terrorism.

France’s rejection of Libra follows guidelines published Wednesday by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA that acknowledge a request from the Libra Association for an assessment of the project’s legality in Switzerland. It includes a warning that the coin scheme will face more scrutiny than usual because it aims to go beyond being a mere payment system.

Libra, announced in June and promptly denounced by privacy advocates, academics and lawmakers, represents the social ad giant’s attempt to expand beyond advertising into the payments business. The company initially enlisted 27 partners to enable digital currency transactions and then brought in lobbyists after a broad backlash.

Last month, data protection officials from the US, EU and UK issued a joint statement of concern about Libra. “To date, while Facebook and [its Libra-focused subsidiary] Calibra have made broad public statements about privacy, they have failed to specifically address the information handling practices that will be in place to secure and protect personal information,” the statement said.

The Libra Association hopes to make Libra available by June 2020. The currency is designed to be tracked by blockchain and backed by assets – fiat currency paid to purchase Libra that gets stored in a reserve for theoretical later redemption.

The Register asked Facebook for comment and our request got kicked to the Libra Association, which didn’t immediately respond.

Don’t trust Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, boffins warn: Zuck & Co know that hash is king

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In an email to The Register, Valerie Khan, VP of Digital Equity, a non-profit advocacy group based in Switzerland, and co-author of a paper critical of Libra, said Le Maire’s concern is welcome because it buys time to look into Libra’s real intentions.

But, she argues, concerns about the misuse of Libra for unlawful activity – something Facebook’s David Marcus has said Libra aims to make more difficult, not less – miss the project’s primary aim. Libra, she contends, is not about money or blockchain. Rather, it’s about the business value of personal identification.

“Facebook interest in Libra is not to create a more liberal payment mechanism, but to ride these fears of security introduced by money laundering and terrorist financing to gather more information about the identity of a client,” she explained.

Also in France on Thursday, Google has agreed to pay a €500m ($554m) fine €465m ($515m) and to settle a four-year old tax fraud probe, according to Reuters. ®

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Five nabbed over conspiracy to commit a public nuisance

Five people have been arrested by the Metropolitan Police for threatening to fly drones around London’s Heathrow airport this Friday to protest climate change.

The group announced at the end of August that they were planning to disrupt the airport – one of the world’s busiest – this coming Friday and would meet with the police and airport authorities to discuss their plan. On Tuesday, they reiterated that plan, stating that they were prepared to go to jail to carry out the action.

Predictably enough, the police arrested them. “Earlier today (Thursday, 12 September), three men and two women aged between their 20’s and 50’s were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance in relation to operations at Heathrow Airport on Friday, 13 September,” reads the Met’s official statement.

It continues: “Two men were arrested on Pritchard’s Road, Bethnal Green, E2. Two women and one man were arrested on Hornsey Lane, N6. They have been taken to a London police station.”

The group, which calls itself Heathrow Pause, claims not be interested in self-promotion but its members have gone to some lengths to appear on TV, actively and repeatedly contacting journalists and posting their subsequent appearances on its webpage.

The group also appears to believe that its approach of telling the police when it intends to carry out an illegal act, and offering to meet with police to discuss the illegal act, should prevent the police from arresting them before they did so.

Seemingly unaware that the police’s job is to prevent illegal activity rather than provide PR to attention-seeking buffoons, the group said it was “disappointed” that the authorities hadn’t warned the public that Heathrow was likely to be shut down because of their action. They had even given six weeks’ fair warning and picked a date that they felt would cause least disruption, they complained.

But, but, but…

“We gave the Heathrow Authorities six weeks’ notice of our intentions, with full details on our plans, the safety of the Action, our desire for an open dialogue with the Police, and all the precautions we’ve put in place. The response was, to say the least, disappointing,” he said.

“To our knowledge Heathrow has done nothing to warn passengers or airlines yet, or put in place any contingency plans, even though we strongly recommend it. Furthermore, we deliberately chose a date after the summer holidays, to minimize the disruption to families and holidaymakers.”

Continuing on this line of ‘innovative’ thinking, even though the sole intention of their action was to ground all flights in and out of Heathrow by flying drones in its airspace, they claim that it’s not their fault if Heathrow grounds all flights in response to them flying drones in its airspace.

“We’re not the ones who will be cancelling flights or grounding aircraft. Our Action is designed to be completely safe,” they stated with a monumental lack of self-awareness. “If any planes are grounded, it will be Heathrow Airport’s decision, probably thanks to pressure from their insurers.”

Aside from highlighting in an almost satirical fashion the dangerous limits to individualism, the group hopes its stupendously stupid actions and arguments will bring an end to climate change.

Police costs for Gatwick drone fiasco double to nearly £900k – and still no one’s been charged

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One of them quoted herself in a press release as saying: “I feel at the end of knowing what else to do. We know the science, we know what’s already happening to communities around the world. Unprecedented extreme weather is ripping through regions and destroying lives. The breakdown of our environment spells disaster for billions. I can’t with good conscience not act. I don’t want to get arrested, but it feels like it’s the last resort for our Government to take notice. I’m a grandmother and I care deeply about…”

I think we’ll stop it there.

Another one of the idiots had this to say about himself in a press release: “I’m mainly doing it because I’m trying to be a human being. And I’m 53. In a few decades I’m not going to be here anymore. Maybe in a few years. And when I die, I want to know I haven’t lived a lie. And for me, I cannot pretend I don’t know what needs to happen.”

Just a bad idea

The issue of drones in the airspace around airports is a serious problem: at the end of last year, Gatwick was closed for more than a day after drones unexpectedly appeared. Two weeks later, the same thing happened again. That followed on from what authorities suspect was a drone collision between it and an A320 landing at Heathrow back in April 2016 and further drone-related chaos the following year.

Of course, climate change and politicians’ failure to act in a sufficient fashion to limit it is a serious issue; one that can and should be tackled in a multitude of different ways and which will require the general public to provide the impetus.

Spouting idiotic nonsense and promising to disrupt the lives of thousands of people just to get yourself on the telly is not one of those ways. ®

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The amber DNA in Jurassic Park? That’s you, that is

Stamping your footprints on the Moon’s surface remains an impossible bucket-list ambition for practically all of us over the age of two. But for $99 you might still be able to leave a DNA footprint there.

A startup called LifeShip is getting ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign to send the biological source code of its crowd-funders on a full Moon shot. An investment of less than a hundred bucks could ensure your unique DNA not only gets to the Moon but remains there, safe and unmolested by the threat of natural disaster or nuclear holocaust, for millennia.

How so cheap? DNA does not take up much room, or should we say space, when hitching a ride to our largest natural satellite. LifeShip is working with Arch Mission to perfect a means of packing the DNA samples into blocks of epoxy resin for preservation during the journey and landing, and subsequent survival among the dusty craters.

Arch Mission was the organisation that produced the Lunar Library – an analogue and digital archive of human history and civilization saved onto nickel discs – that was included in the Israeli Moon mission earlier this year. Launched on a Space X rocket, the archive – and the probe it was on – unfortunately came a cropper while accidentally setting down on the moon at around 500kph.

Alongside the Lunar Library, Arch Mission included a tiny amount of its experimental epoxy resin containing millions of cells from humans and other organisms, plus the notorious water-dwelling, eight-legged that subsequently caused a bit of controversy.

LifeShip’s founder Ben Haldeman assures potential participants concerned about contaminating the Moon’s non-existent eco-system that DNA doesn’t work that way: it’s not alive, for a start.

His interest in Arch Mission’s artificial amber is how it can protect its microscopic cargo from radiation damage. As he told IEEE Spectrum magazine: “We’ll store the DNA dry and will have many thousands of copies of each person’s DNA. If radiation breaks up some of them, there still should be redundancy.”

Arch Mission insists the “amber” is still in development but Haldeman is keen to start sending out DIY DNA collection kits before the end of this year. If all goes to plan, LifeShip could begin sending DNA cargo to the moon on a regular basis, as individuals warm to the idea of having their bio-blueprint archived and backed up off-world for a million years or two.

It’s a far cry from etching your face on a full moon by laser or buying a certificate which claims ownership of a square foot of lunar real estate. But at least a bit of you might actually get there. ®

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Thanks to social media, that’s at least more transparent now…

Some 42 per cent of Brit MPs reckon social media has damaged their policy-making processes, which is in turn having a negative affect on members of the public.

In a further demonstration of self-flagellation, nearly half – 48 per cent – of the Conservative MPs surveyed felt this way even though they are the party in government turning their own policies into law.

Labour MPs did not seem to mind so much, with fewer than a third holding such pessimistic views about the baying mob dictating party policy with tweets, likes and trolls.

Just 8 per cent thought policy-making had improved with the advent of social media.

The weighted survey of 137 MPs across the main political parties and regions, commissioned by political and media software company Vuelio, might have been expected to tick the usual opinion boxes. Political transparency: tick. Ease of access to politicians: tick. Engagement with the public: tick.

Despite 78 per cent of the MPs reckoning the public was suffering from information overload via social media, only 19 per cent of the politicians believed that social media users knew how to find information from a trustworthy source.

The politicians certainly blame social media for their own loss of public status: 81 per cent said that it has worsened the public’s attitude towards them.

Max McEwan, senior consultant at ComRes, observed that while MPs in general might be unhappy with the impact of social media, those in marginal constituencies are forced to use it as their principal means of communication with voters. They regard it as only marginally less important (64 per cent) than face-to-face meetings with constituents (70 per cent).

As McEwan points out, this means we are “poised to enter an election that could be decided based, in part, via a communication channel that MPs consider to have damaged the political process”.

It’s not looking any better, is it? ®

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