U.S. Contractor Knew of Explosive Material in Beirut Since at Least 2016 ▻https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/10/world/middleeast/beirut-explosion-us-contractor.html
An American contractor spotted and reported the potential danger at least four years ago, but U.S. officials denied they were aware of the findings until last week, after the blast.
The presence of the chemicals was spotted and reported by an American port security expert during a safety inspection of the port, the cable said. Current and former American officials who have worked in the Mideast say the contractor would have been expected to report the finding to the U.S. Embassy or Pentagon.
A senior State Department official denied that American officials were aware of the contractor’s findings and said the cable cited by The Times “shows that they had not” been informed.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a cable that was not public, said the contractor “made an unofficial site visit to the port approximately four years ago, and was not at the time a U.S. government or State Department employee.” The official said the department had no record of the contractor communicating his findings until last week, after the deadly explosion.
Des fois que tout cela était secret, et qu’il y aurait eu besoin d’un « American port security expert » en visite de contrôle dans le port de Beyrouth en 2016… alors que l’information a été publiée très ouvertement dans ShipArrested, in english, dans son édition d’octobre 2015 :
On 23/9/2013, m/v Rhosus, flying the Moldovian flag, sailed from Batumi Port, Georgia heading to Biera in Mozambique carrying 2,750 tons of Ammonium Nitrate in bulk.
Owing to the risks associated with retaining the Ammonium Nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses. The vessel and cargo remain to date in port awaiting auctioning and/or proper disposal.
Et comme le rappelle l’article d’Al Manar signalé par @gonzo, l’affaire d’un cargo de nitrate d’ammonium n’était pas du tout passée inaperçu, dans le contexte de la guerre en Syrie :
Même si l’article de Syria Truth ne me semble pas du tout une preuve que le matériau était destiné à la rébellion syrienne, au moins ça indique que l’affaire était déjà publique et commentée fin 2015.
At Talkspace, Start-Up Culture Collides With Mental Health Concerns
The therapy-by-text company made burner phones available for fake reviews and doesn’t adequately respect client privacy, former employees say. In 2016, Ricardo Lori was an avid user of Talkspace — an app that lets people text and chat with a licensed therapist throughout the day. A part-time actor in New York City, Mr. Lori struggled with depression and anxiety, and he credited the app with helping him get out of an abusive relationship. He was a believer in Talkspace’s stated mission to make (...)
How to Fight Against Big Tech’s Power
In the morning, you check email. At noon, you browse social media and message friends. In the evening, you listen to music while shopping online. Around bedtime, you curl up with an e-book. For all of those activities, you probably used a product made or sold by Google, Amazon, Apple or Facebook. There’s no simple way to avoid those Big Four. Even if you subscribed to Spotify, you would probably still be using a Google Android phone, an Amazon speaker or an Apple iPhone to stream the music. (...)
Opinion | Yes, the #Coronavirus Is in the Air - The New York Times
I agree that long-range transmission by aerosols probably is not significant, but I believe that, taken together, much of the evidence gathered to date suggests that close-range transmission by #aerosols is significant — possibly very significant, and certainly more significant than direct droplet spray.
The practical implications are plain:
Social distancing really is important. It keeps us out of the most concentrated parts of other people’s respiratory plumes. So stay away from one another by one or two meters at least — though farther is safer.
Wear a mask. Masks help block aerosols released by the wearer. Scientific evidence is also building that masks protect the wearer from breathing in aerosols around them.
When it comes to masks, size does matter.
The gold standard is a N95 or a KN95 respirator, which, if properly fitted, filters out and prevents the wearer from breathing in at least 95 percent of small aerosols.
The efficacy of surgical masks against aerosols varies widely.
One study from 2013 found that surgical masks reduced exposure to flu viruses by between 10 percent and 98 percent (depending on the mask’s design).
A recent paper found that surgical masks can completely block seasonal coronaviruses from getting into the air.
To my knowledge, no similar study has been conducted for #SARS-CoV-2 yet, but these findings might apply to this virus as well since it is similar to seasonal coronaviruses in size and structure.
My lab has been testing cloth masks on a mannequin, sucking in air through its mouth at a realistic rate. We found that even a bandanna loosely tied over its mouth and nose blocked half or more of aerosols larger than 2 microns from entering the mannequin.
We also found that especially with very small aerosols — smaller than 1 micron — it is more effective to use a softer fabric (which is easier to fit tightly over the face) than a stiffer fabric (which, even if it is a better filter, tends to sit more awkwardly, creating gaps).
Avoid crowds. The more people around you, the more likely someone among them will be infected. Especially avoid crowds indoors, where aerosols can accumulate.
Ventilation counts. Open windows and doors. Adjust dampers in air-conditioning and heating systems. Upgrade the filters in those systems. Add portable air cleaners, or install germicidal ultraviolet technologies to remove or kill virus particles in the air.
It’s not clear just how much this coronavirus is transmitted by aerosols as opposed to droplets or via contact with contaminated surfaces. Then again, we still don’t know the answer to that question even for the flu, which has been studied for decades.
But by now we do know this much: Aerosols matter in the transmission of #Covid-19 — and probably even more so than we have yet been able to prove.
When Covid Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well. - The New York Times
JERUSALEM — As the United States and other countries anxiously consider how to reopen schools, Israel, one of the first countries to do so, illustrates the dangers of moving too precipitously.
Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May.
Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world.
The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.
Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close. Across the country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were quarantined.
Israel’s advice for other countries?
“They definitely should not do what we have done,” said Eli Waxman, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council on the pandemic. “It was a major failure.”
‘This Is a New Phase’ : Europe Shifts Tactics to Limit Tech’s Power
The region’s lawmakers and regulators are taking direct aim at Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple in a series of proposed laws. LONDON — European Union leaders are pursuing a new law to make it illegal for Amazon and Apple to give their own products preferential treatment over those of rivals that are sold on their online stores. In Britain, officials are drawing up a law to force Facebook to make its services work more easily with rival social networks, and to push Google to share some (...)
Pourquoi a-t-on saisi et stocké près de 3000 tonnes de nitrate d’ammonium dans le port de Beyrouth en 2013 ? Quelle était la destination de ce produit ?
C’est la petite musique qui va se faire beaucoup entendre dans les prochains jours : très certainement pour alimenter les gentils « rebelles » syriens.
Article de 2015 par exemple sur ce traffic : Fertilizer, Also Suited for Bombs, Flows to ISIS Territory From Turkey
The laborers work all day, piling bags of fertilizer onto carts and wheeling them through the crossing that connects this southern border town to Syria.
The Syrian town next door is firmly controlled by the extremists of the Islamic State, as is clear from the black flag flying over downtown. And while the fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, is widely used for agriculture, it has also been used by terrorists around the world — including the Islamic State — to build powerful explosives.
Few here think the fertilizer is meant to help Syrian farmers.
“It is not for farming. It is for bombs,” said Mehmet Ayhan, an opposition politician from Akcakale who is running for Parliament.
En France, ces histoires de livraisons en Syrie sont encore sensibles. Ici un article de 2019 : Tereos contre-attaque dans l’affaire du sucre syrien
Rappelons que le Canard enchaîné, dans son édition de mercredi, indique que huit betteraviers (sachant que Tereos est une coopérative de planteurs) ont choisi de déposer plainte après la découverte en novembre 2016, de sacs de sorbitol dans des entrepôts de Daesh en Syrie. Mélangé à du nitrate d’ammonium, ce sucre qui a un usage essentiellement pharmaceutique peut entrer dans la fabrication d’un puissant explosif.
Dans la plupart des articles, on parle plutôt de nitrate de potassium dans cette affaire de sucre. Plainte contre le sucrier français Tereos pour des livraisons en Syrie
Dans ce document consulté par l’AFP, les plaignants rappellent que fin 2016, après la libération de Mossoul en Irak, l’ONG Conflict Armament Research (CAR), mandatée par l’Union Européenne, inspecte « un entrepôt de l’Etat islamique » et y découvre « des dizaines de sacs de sorbitol estampillés Tereos ». Or, ce dérivé du sucre est utilisé comme propulseur d’engins explosifs lorsqu’il est mélangé à du nitrate de potassium.
Attention, la grosse difficulté ici c’est la destination finale du navire : d’après le document relatant l’interception :
la destination était le Mozambique, et le navire ne se serait arrêté à Beyrouth qu’à cause de problèmes techniques, pas pour décharger.
هذه الشحنة من المواد التي ارتُكبِت بها جريمة الرابع من آب بحق بيروت وعموم لبنان، موجودة في المرفأ منذ عام 2013، بقرار قضائي لبناني. حينذاك، كانت سفينة مولدوڤية آتية من جورجيا، وفي طريقها إلى الموزنبيق مرّت بالمياه اللبنانية، حيث تعرّضت لعطل. بعد ذلك، تقدّم عدد من الدائنين بشكاوى قضائية ضد مالكي السفينة، فاحتجز القضاء الشحنة التي أبقيت في العنبر رقم 12.
Beirut blast: Tracing the explosives that tore the capital apart
Timour Azhari, Al Jazeera, le 5 août 2020
Explosions à Beyrouth. Le bateau incriminé ne devait pas aller à Beyrouth, déclare son capitaine
« Il ne cherchait qu’à faire du profit », a déclaré Boris Prokochev, capitaine du Rhosus en 2013, à propos du propriétaire du cargo, qui lui a donné pour instruction de faire une escale imprévue au Liban pour charger des marchandises.
Le Rhosus transportait alors 2 750 tonnes de nitrate d’ammonium de la Géorgie vers le Mozambique et aucun arrêt à Beyrouth n’était prévu au départ, a-t-il dit.
L’équipage a reçu l’ordre d’embarquer du matériel lourd à destination d’Aqaba, en Jordanie, avant de reprendre la route de l’Afrique, où le nitrate d’ammonium devait être livré à un fabricant d’explosifs. Mais le cargo n’a plus jamais quitté Beyrouth, à cause de l’impossibilité d’assurer un chargement sûr et d’un différend au sujet des redevances portuaires.
Randonautica: What Is It and Are the Stories Real? - The New York Times
That is the gamble one takes with Randonautica, which claims to channel users’ “intentions” to produce nearby coordinates for exploration. Think: The law of attraction meets geocaching.
Randonautica makes a few asks of users — “What would you like to get?” “Choose your entropy source” — before prompting them to “focus on your intent” while it fetches coordinates. This process relies on location settings and a random number generator, which, despite what the company says, cannot be directly affected by human thoughts.
Since its release, Randonautica has been downloaded 10.8 million times from the App Store and Google Play, according to the research firm Sensor Tower. After a few months of rapid growth, much of it propelled by TikTok, its downloads have started to taper off, according to data from the analytics firm App Annie.
In an interview in July, Mr. Lengfelder described Randonautica as “a multimedia storytelling platform” that encourages “performance art.” He said the overwhelming response has not surprised him.
“I kind of figured it was inevitable,” he said. “Because basically what it is is like a machine that creates memes and legends, and it kind of virally propagates on its own.”
So How Does It Work?
On first use, Randonautica offers a brief intro and some tips (“Always Randonaut with a charged phone,” “Never trespass”) before prompting you to share your location.
Then it will ask you to choose which type of point you would like it to generate (the differences between which only matter if you believe the app can read your thoughts) before fetching coordinates from a random number generator. The user can then open that location in Google Maps to begin their journey.
Randonautica throws big words like “quantum” and “entropy” around a lot. Its creators believe that quantum random numbers are more likely to be influenced by human consciousness than non-quantum random numbers. This hypothesis is part of a theory Mr. Lengfelder refers to as “mind-machine interaction,” or M.M.I.: It posits that when you focus on your intent, you are influencing the numbers.
“Basically if you’re looking for any kind of peer-reviewed, scientific consensus, that does not exist yet in the literature,” Mr. Lengfelder said in a TikTok video in June, speaking about the theory. Instead, he pointed to the work of Dean Radin, a prominent figure in the pseudoscientific field of parapsychology, and the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) program, which has cited Dr. Radin’s research, as evidence.
Randonautica claims that a 1998 PEAR experiment supported the idea that people can control random number generation with their thoughts. That study was published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, which includes work about the paranormal, spirit possessions, poltergeists and questions about Shakespeare’s authorship. In the study, PEAR’s researchers wrote that the experiment was far from conclusive.
“It looks like they saw some kind of correlation, but they admit that it was weak and it needed to have further research associated with it,” said Casey Schwarz, an experimental physicist and assistant professor at Ursinus College who reviewed Randonautica’s claims for this article. She said she did not know of any quantum system that could be influenced by human thoughts.
Mr. Lengfelder dismissed such criticisms, stating that the app was not created to prove a hypothesis. “I would say it’s not some kind of academic science work,” he said. “We’re more like inventors than academic scientists.”
An update coming in August will feature improved graphics and, Mr. Lengfelder said, a custom random number generator that would have a higher “rate of entropy.” “So technically our M.M.I. effects should be higher,” he said. Of course, as noted above, M.M.I. is a theory that is not supported by science.
Daniel J. Rogers, a physicist who has worked with quantum random number generators, called Randonautica’s M.M.I. theory “completely absurd.”
“There is no quantum physics here,” said Dr. Rogers, a founder of the Global Disinformation Index. “This is just people using big science words to sound magical. There is no actual science here.”
‘Do Not Go Randonauting’
Randonauting became popular partly because of reverse psychology; young people approach it with a sense of foreboding. “Do not go randonauting” has become a popular title for videos.
Know and Tell, a child protection education program with the Granite State Children’s Alliance in New Hampshire, has posted on Instagram telling parents to keep young people off the app, or at least supervise their use.
“It was very apparent that these were young teenagers that were going to undisclosed areas in the middle of the night,” said Jana El-Sayed, the outreach project manager for the Granite State Children’s Alliance. She described these circumstances as “a perpetrator’s dream.”
William English, Who Helped Build the Computer Mouse, Dies at 91 - The New York Times
William English, the engineer and researcher who helped build the first computer mouse and, in 1968, orchestrated an elaborate demonstration of the technology that foretold the computers, tablets and smartphones of today, died on July 26 in San Rafael, Calif. He was 91.
His death, at a medical facility, was confirmed by his wife, Roberta English, who said the cause was respiratory failure.
In the late 1950s, after leaving a career in the Navy, Mr. English joined a Northern California research lab called the Stanford Research Institute, or S.R.I. (now known as SRI International). There he met Douglas Engelbart, a fellow engineer who hoped to build a new kind of computer.
At a time when only specialists used computers, entering and retrieving information through punched cards, typewriters and printouts, Mr. Engelbart envisioned a machine that anyone could use simply by manipulating images on a screen. It was a concept that would come to define the information age, but by his own admission Mr. Engelbart had struggled to explain his vision to others.
ImageAt a time when only specialists used computers, entering and retrieving information through punched cards, typewriters and print-outs,
At a time when only specialists used computers, entering and retrieving information through punched cards, typewriters and print-outs,Credit...via English family
Mr. English, known to everyone as Bill, was one of the few who understood these ideas and who had the engineering talent, patience and social skills needed to realize them. “He was the guy who made everything happen,” said Bill Duvall, who worked alongside Mr. English during those years. “If you told him something needed to be done, he figured out how to do it.”
After Mr. Engelbart had envisaged the computer mouse and drawn a rough sketch of it on a notepad, Mr. English built it in the mid-1960s. Housed inside a small pinewood case, the device consisted of two electrical mechanisms, called potentiometers, that tracked the movement of two small wheels as they moved across a desktop. They called it a mouse because of the way the computer’s on-screen cursor, called a CAT, seemed to chase the device’s path.
As they were developing the system, both Mr. English and Mr. Engelbart were part of the government-funded L.S.D. tests conducted by a nearby lab called the International Foundation of Advanced Study. Both took the psychedelic as part of a sweeping effort to determine whether it could “open the mind” and foster creativity.
Though Mr. Engelbart oversaw the NLS project, the 1968 demonstration in San Francisco was led by Mr. English, who brought both engineering and theater skills to the task. In the mid-1950s he had volunteered as a stage manager for a Bay Area theater troupe called The Actor’s Workshop.
For the San Francisco event, he used a video projector the size of a Volkswagen Beetle (borrowed it from a nearby NASA lab) to arrange and project the live images behind Mr. Engelbart as he demonstrated NLS from the stage. He had been able to set up the wireless link that sent video between the Menlo Park computer lab and the auditorium after befriending a telephone company technician.
Mr. English helped orchestrate an elaborate demonstration of the technology that foretold the computers, tablets and smartphones of today.
Mr. English helped orchestrate an elaborate demonstration of the technology that foretold the computers, tablets and smartphones of today.Credit...via English family
Three years after the demonstration, Mr. English left S.R.I. and joined a new Xerox lab called the Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC. There he helped adapt many of the NLS ideas for a new machine called the Alto, which became a template for the Apple Macintosh, the first Microsoft Windows personal computers and other internet-connected devices.