Boing! Boing! Making Things Up About Church Fires Again

For some reason, when it comes to church fires Boing! Boing! can’t simply stick to the facts. Instead it has to distort reporting about such fires and, thereby, mislead its readers. Unfortunately, Cory Doctorow and crew can’t be bothered to ever correct the record–once facts emerge that don’t fit Boing! Boing!’s preferred narrative, the topic never gets revisited.

The most recent example is an April 6, 2019 post by Jacob Weisberger, Someone is setting fire to black churches in Louisiana. The post is largely just a copy and paste job of a New York Times article.

The problem is that the article itself indicates that no determination of arson has been made yet.

Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they had found “suspicious elements” in each case. The officials have not ruled out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.

“Suspicious elements” is not yet a determination of arson, and for Boing! Boing! to imply that it is by saying that “someone is setting fire to black churches” is both misleading and irresponsible. Why can’t Boing! Boing! just wait for the facts to emerge rather than jump to conclusions?

This wouldn’t be so bad if this was the first time Boing! Boing! had done this, but, in fact, it has done this before. Back in 2015, Boing! Boing! published an invented and irresponsible claim about another series of arsons to its readers. To this day, Boing! Boing has never bothered to correct the record.

In 2015, there were five church arsons in and around Baltimore. It was not unreasonable to wonder if there may have been a racial component to the arsons, but until a perpetrator was caught there was no way to determine what the motive was.

But the lack of facts didn’t stop Cory Doctorow who declared in the title of the only Boing! Boing! post on the issue, Terrorists torch five black Ferguson-area churches, nation yawns.

In the first paragraph of his post, Doctorow treats the motivation of the arsonists as settled, despite no suspect being identified when he wrote.

St. Louis Fire Department captain Garon Mosby calls the fires “arson,” but despite the shocking string of racist attacks, major media have hardly breathed a word about the fires.

And Cory was just getting started. He continued with a flourish.

It’s a stark contrast with the orgy of media coverage that attended last year’s burning of a CVS in Baltimore by protesters, which was a major news lead for several days, and was used to characterize the whole anti-racist movement as violent and out-of-control.

The attacks follow on from last summer’s wave of torchings of black churches across the south after the terrorist slaughter at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Black church burnings and bombings have been a favored tactic of white terrorists since the civil war era, a tactic for racists who call for pogroms, genocide or deportation of their fellow citizens.

. . .

This terrorist violence and the popular and official indifference to it is an important rebuttal to the bizarre idea that racism is a solved problem in America, because of Obama, or because of affirmative action, or because of some other irrelevance.

Nine days after publishing this, a suspect was arrested in for the arsons. The arsonist turned out to be the work of a single man, David Lopez Jackson, 35, an African American who was apparently a run-of-the-mill firebug. According to a Washington Post story announcing Jackson’s arrest,

Authorities said the fires don’t appear to be the result of a hate crime or the targeting of a particular Christian denomination of ethnic group. Several of the churches that were attacked were predominantly African American, but at least two were not. Jackson is black, according to police.

Dotson said the motive is still unclear.

Jackson plead guilty to the arsons in March 2017. The St. Louis Riverfront Times noted at the time that Jackson’s “court records paint a picture of a mentally ill man with a long criminal history.”

Neither Doctorow nor Boing! Boing! ever revisited the Ferguson church fires again, either to correct the falsehoods or simply update the post to indicate that the arsons were not, in fact, the work of terrorists.

The Ferguson church fires were only interesting to Doctorow to the extent that they were a symbol of a particular narrative he wanted to push. As soon as they no longer fit that particular narrative, the arsons were not worth revisiting.

That is pretty rich given that Doctorow’s post was fixated on how the mainstream media was ignoring the fires for its own ideological reasons.

Update 2019-04-11: Authorities announced today that they had arrested a suspect who presumably will be charged shortly with arson, and possibly other crimes, in connection to the Louisiana church fires.

Fooling The Samsung Galaxy S10 Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanner

Someone has put up a post on imgur claiming to demonstrate unlocking a Galaxy S10 by 3d printing a fingerprint based on an image of the fingerprint,

First I simply took a photograph of my fingerprint on the side of a wine glass. I used my smartphone to take this picture, but it’s certainly not out of the question to use a long focal length DSLR camera to snag a fingerprint image from across a room…or further.

I then pulled the image into Photoshop and increased the contrast, and created an alpha mask.

I exported that over to 3ds Max and created a geometry displacement from the Photoshop image which gave me a raised 3d model of every last detail of the fingerprint.

I popped that model into the 3D printing software and began to print it. This was printed using an AnyCubic Photon LCD resin printer, which is accurate down to about 10 microns (in Z height, 45 microns in x/y), which is more than enough detail to capture all of the ridges in a fingerprint.

As the author of the post notes, if a smartphone is stolen, it is likely that a fingerprint of the owner will be found on the phone itself (especially if the user is repeatedly touching a specific area of the screen to unlock it, as someone using the ultrasonic fingerprint reader would be doing).

Apple Lies to Customers about Data Recovery from Damaged iPhones

In this fascinating video, the CBC follows a couple who needed to recover thousands of pictures from an iPhone after it was dropped in water. The video shows how Jessa Jones, who specializes in iPhone repair, is able to get the dead phone working again so that the couple can get their priceless photos back.

The kicker, though, is that Apple’s official forums ban Jessa and others who point out this option to iPhone users. In fact, users are frequently told that recovering data from dead or damaged iPhones is impossible, and that those who claim they can do so are scammers. Jones herself regularly has her posts deleted and account banned for simply stating the truth–that there is a good chance that a third party repair service will be able to assist in recovering the data.

As Jones points out in a subsequent video on Louis Rossman’s YouTube channel, Apple is actively harming its users with this absurd tone deaf approach. Someone who seeks to recover their memories from a device deserves more from Apple than boilerplate “if it wasn’t backed up to iCloud it can’t be recovered” nonsense.

Shame on Apple.

The Tumblr-pocalypse

Effective December 17, 2018, Tumblr banned all adult content from its site. Since then, based on a traffic analysis from Similar Web, site traffic to Tumblr has declined by about 15 percent.

Similar Web - Tumblr Traffic Analysis, February 2019
Similar Web – Tumblr Traffic Analysis, February 2019

A Google Trends look at interest in Tumblr shows a marked decline in year-to-year searches on Google for the phrase “tumblr.”

Google Trends - Tumblr
Google Trends – Tumblr

I would be very surprised if the drop in total visits doesn’t continue to crater (I know I deleted my account in December and only incidentally visit the site now).

I never thought I’d say this about the site, but I actually miss Tumblr, or at least the idea that Tumblr briefly was the standard bearer for that people did not need to segregate their erotic selves from the other parts of their lives.

When I am using Twitter, for example, I am engaging with multiple communities that impact on different parts of who I am and what I am interested in, from politics, philosophy and economics to action figures and professional wrestling. From the cerebral to the ephemeral in one feed.

Tumblr added adult content into that mix (for those who chose it) allowing people to incorporate their particular erotic selves with their other identities.

This is why the numerous “where to find porn after Tumblr shuts down adult content” articles completely missed the point. What users liked about Tumblr was that it didn’t force them to go out to other sites, but allowed users to integrate all of their interests, including sexual expressions.

As Violet Blue put it in her December 2018 piece on Tumblr’s decision,

One thing is true: people loved the open internet when it was a) not under corporate stewardship hearkening back to 1950s values, and b) you could find people doing all kinds of sex in its different corners. Erasing millions of sex blogs and repressing sexual speech like Goebbels is the sign of a sick ecosystem, the opposite of a future-facing business plan and ignorant of millions of people who disagree wholeheartedly.

Tumblr says they’re erasing a million-plus blogs and decimating communities to create a “better, more positive” experience; Facebook, as usual, claims to be “encouraging expression and creating a safe environment.”

I don’t think any company that actively erases positive sexual expression is going to wake up to the fact that what they’re doing is regressive at best and harmful at worst. When given the opportunity to revert these policies, like if FOSTA was dumped, it’s clear none of them would. After all, FOSTA with all it’s ignoring of women and conflating of sex work with rape, was a bipartisan bill — and its most pivotal supporter was Facebook.

Cloudflare Announces Warp VPN

Back when Cloudflare released its secure DNS application for mobile devices, I wondered what the point was, since (at least on Android) users needed to disable any VPNs they were using in order to use the application. Who is the audience for secure DNS minus a VPN?

This week, Cloudflare closed that gap by announcing Warp, a free VPN (with premium options to follow) that will eventually be rolled into the mobile app.

From Cloudflare’s press release,

Technically, Warp is a VPN. However, we think the market for VPNs as it’s been imagined to date is severely limited. Imagine trying to convince a non-technical friend that they should install an app that will slow down their Internet and drain their battery so they can be a bit more secure. Good luck.

. . .

We built Warp because we’ve had those conversations with our loved ones too and they’ve not gone well. So we knew that we had to start with turning the weaknesses of other VPN solutions into strengths. Under the covers, Warp acts as a VPN. But now in the App, if users decide to enable Warp, instead of just DNS queries being secured and optimized, all Internet traffic is secured and optimized. In other words, Warp is the VPN for people who don’t know what V.P.N. stands for.

. . .

Security is table stakes. What really distinguishes Warp is performance and reliability. While other VPNs slow down the Internet, Warp incorporates all the work that the team from Neumob has done to improve mobile Internet performance. We’ve built Warp around a UDP-based protocol that is optimized for the mobile Internet. We also leveraged Cloudflare’s massive global network, allowing Warp to connect with servers within milliseconds of most the world’s Internet users. With our network’s direct peering connections and uncongested paths we can deliver a great experience around the world. Our tests have shown that Warp will often significantly increase Internet performance. Generally, the worse your network connection the better Warp should make your performance.

. . .

Finally, we knew that if we really wanted Warp to be something that all our less-technical friends would use, then price couldn’t be a barrier to adoption. The basic version of Warp is included as an option with the App for free.

We’re also working on a premium version of Warp — which we call Warp+ — that will be even faster by utilizing Cloudflare’s virtual private backbone and Argo technology. We will charge a low monthly fee for those people, like many of you reading this blog, who want even more speed. The cost of Warp+ will likely vary by region, priced in a way that ensures the fastest possible mobile experience is affordable to as many people as possible.

Users can sign up from the app to be on a waitlist that they’ll move up as the VPN rolls out. I’m currently at #340921, so it may be awhile before I get to use it.

This is certainly an exciting development, but I assume that just as Cloudflare highlights some of the problems with traditional VPNs in its press release, there are some things that traditional VPNs are probably better for than Warp. For example, my suspicions are that Cloudflare isn’t going to be a big fan of people using their VPN for torrenting.