31 August 2023

Why the silence on violent anti-Christian persecution?

Image credit: OSINT Updates

The world has rightly condemned the burning of a Quran two months ago by an atheist activist in Sweden. Actions such as these – designed to cause hurt and outrage rather than foster respectful discussion or debate – are reprehensible.

Furthermore, along with the needless hurt caused to our Muslim neighbours around the world, it is most often Christian communities in Muslim-majority countries who suffer the consequences.

Western governments have condemned the burning of the Quran, but remain silent on the burning of churches, Bibles and Christians’ homes.

The anger felt about the Quran burning has no doubt helped to fuel the anti-Christian riots in Punjab, Pakistan, in which at least 22 church buildings were attacked – five of them burned – and dozens of Christian homes were set ablaze by extremists. Bibles, hymnbooks and other Christian books were burned by the mob.

Yet there was been a marked difference in the world’s response to the actions of an atheist extremist in Sweden and its response to actions of Islamist extremists in Pakistan. Why does the silence persist?  Read more...


Reading for today: why does God allow pain?


If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and enough for us. 

Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We ‘have all we want’ is a terrible saying when ‘all’ does not include God. We find God an interruption. As St Augustine says somewhere, ‘God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full - there’s nowhere for Him to put it.’ Or as a friend of mine said, ‘We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.’ Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. 

Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as he leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness?

By C.S. Lewis

From The Problem of Pain

23 August 2023

Bots can now can complete CAPTCHAs quicker than humans!


Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart – better known as the ubiquitous CAPTCHA we see standing athwart the doors to many websites – may now be a misnomer as researchers have found that computers are much better at completing them.

The bot defense measure dates back to 1997 and the tortured acronym 2003, with the technology starting out as a distorted series of letters and/or numbers. Google's implementation, reCAPTCHA, eventually did away with much of these shenanigans to make the browser identify low-risk human users in the background, but the image verification method still pops up occasionally if risk cannot be ascertained.

Normal people see them as a time-waster, web devs see them as a crucial defence against bots, and criminals see them just as another obstacle to be hurdled.

"We do know for sure that they are very much unloved. We didn't have to do a study to come to that conclusion," team lead Gene Tsudik of the University of California, Irvine, told New Scientist. "But people don't know whether that effort, that colossal global effort that is invested into solving CAPTCHAs every day, every year, every month, whether that effort is actually worthwhile."

Thanks to the inexorable march of progress, the answer appears to be no.

Having found that 120 of the 200 most popular websites used CAPTCHA tests of one sort or another, the team enlisted 1,000 people of all ages, sexes, location, and education, and got them to each perform 10 CAPTCHA tests on these sites.

They then compared their successes to those of a number of bots coded by researchers and published in journals for the purpose of beating CAPTCHA tests. The results make for embarrassing reading: for distorted text fields: humans took 9-15 seconds with an accuracy of just 50-84 percent. Bots, on the other hand, beat the tests in less than a second with 99.8 percent accuracy.


Google Chrome to warn when installed extensions are malware

Google is testing a new feature in the Chrome browser that will warn users when an installed extension has been removed from the Chrome Web Store, usually indicative of it being malwareAn unending supply of unwanted browser extensions is published on the Chrome Web Store and promoted through popup and redirect ads.

These extensions are made by scam companies and threat actors who use them to inject advertisements, track your search history, redirect you to affiliate pages, or in more severe cases, steal your Gmail emails and Facebook accounts.

The problem is that these extensions are churned out quickly, with the developers releasing new ones just as Google removes old ones from the Chrome Web Store.

Unfortunately, if you installed one of these extensions, they will still be installed in your browser, even after Google detects them as malware and removes them from the store.

Due to this, Google is now bringing its Safety Check feature to browser extensions, warning Chrome users when an extension has been detected as malware or removed from the store and that they should be uninstalled from the browser. This feature will go live in Chrome 117.


21 August 2023

Road Safety: Travel Like You Know Them - Think!

On the 29 January 2022, The Highway Code changed to improve road safety for people walking, cycling or horse riding.

The changes were communicated in two phases.  A factual awareness raising campaign ran in February-March 2022, followed by a broader behaviour change campaign, ‘Travel Like You Know Them’ in July-August 2022.   To continue embedding the changes and encouraging uptake of the guidance, ‘Travel Like You Know Them’ is re-launching in August 2023.

The campaign speaks to everyone who uses the road, with a focus on those who have a greater responsibility to reduce the risk that they may pose to others.

By offering a snapshot into the lives of everyday road users, we want to help people see more than vehicles on the road. The campaign aims to help all road users better understand each other and encourage positive behaviours to help keep everyone safe.


Reading for Today: On Love (not hate)

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less. There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude’, you will probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they have a very quick eye for anything like showing off, or patronage.) But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.

18 August 2023

Buyers of Bored Ape NFTs sue after digital apes turn out to be bad investment. Well, who'd have thunked it? ;0)

The Sotheby's auction house has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by investors who regret buying Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs that sold for highly inflated prices during the NFT craze in 2021. A Sotheby's auction duped investors by giving the Bored Ape NFTs "an air of legitimacy... to generate investors' interest and hype around the Bored Ape brand," the class-action lawsuit claims.

The boost to Bored Ape NFT prices provided by the auction "was rooted in deception," said the lawsuit filed in US District Court for the Central District of California. It wasn't revealed at the time of the auction that the buyer was the now-disgraced FTX, the lawsuit said.

"Sotheby's representations that the undisclosed buyer was a 'traditional' collector had misleadingly created the impression that the market for BAYC NFTs had crossed over to a mainstream audience," the lawsuit claimed. Lawsuit plaintiffs say that harmed investors bought the NFTs "with a reasonable expectation of profit from owning them."

Sotheby's sold a lot of 101 Bored Ape NFTs for $24.4 million at its "Ape In!" auction in September 2021, well above the pre-auction estimates of $12 million to $18 million. That's an average price of over $241,000, but Bored Ape NFTs now sell for a floor price of about $50,000 worth of ether cryptocurrency, according to CoinGecko data accessed today.


17 August 2023

RAC Pothole Index – statistics and data for UK roads

There are an estimated two million potholes in the UK and your chances of suffering a vehicle breakdown due to road defects is almost 30% higher than 2019.

From motorways to country lanes, these road defects are one of the leading causes of breakdowns and why so many car owners have to take their vehicle to the local garage to be fixed. Currently, the Government has a pot of £5 billion to tackle the problem up until 2025. But what is the current state of our roads? Find out with the RAC Pothole Index. 

It is estimated that there could be up to two million potholes across the roads of the United Kingdom.

In 2023, information obtained data through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed the total number of potholes in England. Out of the 185 country and district councils, 81 provided a response.

From those that provided the data, there were a reported 556,658 potholes in England.

Using this information, it can be estimated that there is an absolute total of 1.2-1.5 million potholes across the whole country.

When adding up the number of Unitary Authorities in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, it can be further estimated that there could be between 400,000 and 500,000 more potholes across the entirety of the UK.


10 August 2023

Warning that Chinese electric car ‘invasion’ could paralyse Britain

A coming influx of Chinese electric cars represents a security risk as they could be remotely controlled to “paralyse” Britain, according to the head of the industry’s professional body. 

Britons face “major security issues” from Chinese cars, warned Professor Jim Saker, president of the Institute of the Motor Industry

In a report due to be shared with car makers and regulators, Prof Saker said there was “no way” of stopping Chinese cars coming under remote control. 

He said: “The car manufacturer may be in Shanghai and could stop 100,000 to 300,000 cars across Europe thus paralysing a country.”

While regulators can test samples of cars for spyware or other security vulnerabilities, testing thousands of vehicles is not feasible, he said. 


02 August 2023

Presume all cold calls are scams, public told


The public are to be told to assume any cold calls for investment schemes or other financial products are scams under a new Government campaign against fraud.

Ministers are to consult on plans to introduce a ban on cold call sales of products including mortgages, crypto currency schemes and insurance following evidence that millions of people are targeted by scammers each week.

Once the ban is in force anyone being offered such schemes can assume they are a scam and anyone cold calling will face fines of up to £500,000.

More than 40 million adults in the UK were the target of a scam text or call in just three months, according to research by regulator Ofcom.

Cold calls offering pension products are already illegal, and the latest announcement extends these powers to other financial services. Scam investment schemes cost victims £750 million in 2022-23, according to the City of London Police.