How scary-capable deepfakes have become

This video of Tom Cruise is a computer-generated fake.

In a series of tweets, Rachel Tobac, the CEO of SocialProof Security, warns that deepfakes like @deeptomcruise threaten to further erode public trust in a world where media literacy is poor and people already can’t agree on what’s true or false. Like the black and gold dress, where one person might notice giveaways that the Tom Cruise videos are synthesized, another might not know the signs of a fake and swear up and down that they’re real…

“Just because you feel you can personally tell the difference between synthetic & authentic media, it doesn’t mean we’re good to go,” she says. “It matters what the general public believes.”

Like most longtimey geeks, I recognize the many corrupt uses to which this class of software will be dedicated. Guaranteed. But, I count on…

1. Equally talented geeks coming up with software which will detect and label the criminal and political productions waiting in the wings.

2. Responsible types will publicize the fakes as such…and identify and expose the creepier flavor of geeks out there willing to participate in criminal abuse of advances in technology.

Still – use at your own risk!

Last October, security researchers warned that the Qiui Cellmate Chastity Cage had a serious security flaw that could allow hackers to turn a chastity device into a dick jail. Now, the device’s European distributors are saying the problem’s been fixed and your dicks are safe.

In an email to Gizmodo, a spokesperson from Dusedo—Cellmate’s distributor—wrote that our initial coverage caused consumers to be wary of the device and that such concern was unfounded as it “wrongly created the image that our product could be hacked, after which the genitals of the wearer would be permanently locked up.” The spokesperson went on to elaborate that the problem was with the Qiui app, which had an API security flaw, and not the device itself, but that “because one is inextricably linked to the other, we have, in collaboration with Qiui, made every effort to solve the security issue as quickly as possible.” A nearly word-for-word statement was also sent to Motherboard.

A few folks – no one really knows how many – have paid extortionist geeks to have these devices removed. Paying to have this hardware removed from their “software”. Scary stuff!

Time to end the “FOREVER WAR” in the Middle East

For two decades now, our government has sent U.S. military service members to fight in an ever-expanding, global conflict.

Thousands of Americans and countless civilians have died, trillions of dollars have been wasted, and entire regions of the world have been destabilized. Instead of making us safer, this reckless conflict has militarized our society, fed xenophobia and hate here in the U.S., and created more extremism abroad. The frustrated Veterans who fought call this the “Forever War” — but together, we have the power to end it.

We need to bring our troops home. We need to stop bombing other countries. And we need to spend the trillions of dollars that we’re wasting on the Forever War here at home instead, making investments that benefit working Americans like COVID relief, green jobs, healthcare, and more.

There’s more to this plea for sanity…and a petition over here.

Fireflies in a bamboo forest

In the summer of 2019, Daniel Kordan was shooting in a remote location on Kyushu, the third-largest island of Japan’s five main islands, and he was treated to quite an experience.

“They call them hime hotaru in Japan – synchronous fireflies,” Kordan tells PetaPixel. “At this remote location of Kyushu island, we saw a really crazy amount of them.

“At a certain moment when your eyes get used to dark ambient light you see the whole forest is blinking synchronously like a Christmas tree! It’s like a big wave of stars going up and down in the deep bamboo forest.”

Click through to the article at PetaPixel and enjoy more about Kordan’s firefly adventure on the island of Kyushu. You’ll also find links to his work on other sites including his website and INSTAGRAM.

Public health, public policy in the Trump era

This report by the Lancet Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era assesses the repercussions of President Donald Trump’s health-related policies and examines the failures and social schisms that enabled his election.

Trump exploited low and middle-income white people’s anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilise racial animus and xenophobia and enlist their support for policies that benefit high-income people and corporations and threaten health.

His signature legislative achievement, a trillion-dollar tax cut for corporations and high-income individuals, opened a budget hole that he used to justify cutting food subsidies and health care. His appeals to racism, nativism, and religious bigotry have emboldened white nationalists and vigilantes, and encouraged police violence and, at the end of his term in office, insurrection. He chose judges for US courts who are dismissive of affirmative action and reproductive, labour, civil, and voting rights; ordered the mass detention of immigrants in hazardous conditions; and promulgated regulations that reduce access to abortion and contraception in the USA and globally…

Click through to the article. Registration is free and gives you access to the complete report.

Fertile Soil Gone From Midwestern Farms


Evan Thaler/NPR

Farming has destroyed a lot of the rich soil of America’s Midwestern prairie. A team of scientists just came up with a staggering new estimate for just how much has disappeared…

The new study emerged from a simple observation, one that people flying over Midwestern farms can confirm for themselves. The color of bare soil varies, and that variation is related to soil quality.

The soil that’s darkest in color is widely known as topsoil. Soil scientists call this layer the “A-horizon.” It’s the “black, organic, rich soil that’s really good for growing crops,” says Evan Thaler, a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

It’s full of living microorganisms and decaying plant roots, also called organic carbon. When settlers first arrived in the Midwest, it was everywhere, created from centuries of accumulated prairie grass. Plowing, though, released much of the trapped carbon, and topsoil was also lost to wind and water erosion. The soil that remains is often much lighter in color.

RTFA. The history isn’t unknown. The effects are still (sometimes) debated. It takes many tons of additives annually to keep productivity and profitability close to each other. Healthy? That’s another question.