Start Up No.1843: Russia tries to hack hacking Ukrainians, the climate dark ages, Tesla sells 75% of its bitcoin, airporters!, and more

If one person can be said to be truly responsible for our current climate trajectory, it’s Joe Manchin, the not-really Democrat senator for West Virginia, who blocks legislation on it. What’s the solution? CC-licensed photo by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. Parched. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Russia released a Ukrainian app for hacking Russia that was actually malware targeting its users • Motherboard

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:


Russian government hackers tried to trick Ukrainian and international volunteers into using a malicious Android app disguised as an app to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against Russian sites, according to new research published by Google on Tuesday. 

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukraine has resisted not only on the ground, but also online. A loose collective of technologists and hackers has organized under an umbrella quasi-hacktivist organization called the IT Army, and they have launched constant and persistent cyberattacks against Russian websites. 

The Russian government tried to turn this volunteer effort around to unmask Ukrainian hackers, in a smart, but ultimately failed attempt. 

“This is interesting and new, and [Russian government hackers] sort of testing the boundaries again, and trying to explore different things. The Russian groups definitely keep us on our toes,” Shane Huntley, the head of the Google research team Threat Analysis Group, told Motherboard in a phone call. 

…The app actually didn’t DDoS anything, but was designed to map out and figure out who would want to use such an app to attack Russian websites, according to Huntely.

“Now that they have an app that they control, and they see where it came from, they can actually work out what the infrastructure looks like, and work out where the people that are potentially doing these sorts of attacks are,” Huntley said.

Google said the fake app wasn’t hosted on the Play Store, and that the number of installs “was miniscule.”


The war, in all its forms, is very definitely not over.
unique link to this extract

The new climate dark ages have begun • The Atlantic

Robinson Meyer:


Today, I’m finding very little to sugarcoat. When Senator Joe Manchin pulled the plug on President Joe Biden’s legislative climate agenda last week, he locked in a genuine setback for the country and the world, all but ensuring that billions of tons of unnecessary carbon pollution will stream into the atmosphere. The planet’s climate is not doomed. Indeed, the nature of the problem is such that until the Hudson River turns to ash or crocodiles migrate to Greenland, the climate is never truly doomed.

But Manchin’s fickleness really has held back the scale of emissions reductions that will be possible over the next decade. Fixing climate change is like paying down a large debt: By neglecting that work now, we shall only find ourselves in deeper trouble in the future. And to move past that defeat, we should have the courage to look squarely at it. Here are seven ways to think about what just happened and what’s to come:

1. This is a truly irreversible climate defeat.
Here’s the status quo: The United States is slowly reducing its carbon pollution. Last year, even as carbon emissions came surging back from their pandemic collapse, the country’s climate pollution remained 17% below its all-time high. Exorbitant fossil-fuel prices and continued technological improvement will help emissions keep falling through this decade. By 2030, the country’s emissions could be 24% to 35% below their all-time peak, according to a new analysis from the Rhodium Group, a private energy-research firm.

But President Biden aimed to cut emissions 50% by that year (and America has pledged as much under the Paris Agreement). The climate provisions in an earlier draft of Build Back Better would have gotten us nearly there. With no further legislative action, the country is unlikely to meet that goal, meaning that an extra 5bn tons of carbon will flood the atmosphere, trapping additional heat in the Earth system and acidifying the ocean. That carbon will then persist for centuries, triggering essentially permanent sea-level rise.

Most news cycles in American politics are forgotten in a few months or years. This failure could resonate into the fourth millennium.


The lack of vitriol directed at Manchin, who is propped up by coal, gas and oil funding, amazes me. It amazes Robert Reich, ex-US Labor secretary, too: he thinks Manchin should be kicked out of the Democratic party. Should have been years ago, surely.
unique link to this extract

We’re not going to make it to 2050 • Eudaimonia and Co

umair haque:


Because of the killing heat, crops are beginning to fail. What kinds of crops? The better answer is: what isn’t on the list? Harvests for everything from cocoa to coffee to wheat to sugar to mustard are beginning to decline. They’re not going to stop, because neither is the heat. The crops our civilization depends on? They can’t survive the killing heat, either. So what happens as harvests fail?

Prices spike. Shortages break out. Both of those are beginning to happen now. My lovely wife’s back in America — I’m in Europe. She calls me daily to tell me how fast prices are rising. I commiserate, and tell her that Europe’s on fire. This is our daily catch-up chit chat.

What happens as prices spike? Inflation roars. And what happens as a consequence of inflation? People get poorer. What do people who are getting poorer not have the money to do anymore? Invest. They can’t afford to pay the taxes which fund modern social contracts. And so societies simply begin to fall apart. This is the vicious cycle many, many civilizations have fallen into before us, essentially. Poverty breeds an inability to take collective action and make collective investments. All the systems of a golden age? They simply begin to crumble, break down, fail — and now there’s nothing much left over to repair them, because people are just fighting for basics, a little more bitterly every day.

Sound like the path we’re on? It should, because it is.

What’s the brutal truth I’m trying to get to? It goes like this. We’re not going to make it to 2050. Not even close to that far.

By “make it,” I don’t mean…some kind of dumb Marvel Movie. We’re all going to die tomorrow! Nope. I mean “Civilization as we know it.”


Unfortunately I find myself agreeing with this. I can’t help thinking that the future is a gradual slide into a cascade of shortages and then outages, of retreat from globalism and into nationalism. (Via John Naughton.)
unique link to this extract

Men lose Y chromosomes as they age. It may be harming their hearts • Science

Mitch Leslie:


As men get older, they don’t just lose their hair, muscle tone, and knee cartilage. They also start to lose Y chromosomes from their cells. Scientists have linked this vanishing to a long list of diseases and a higher risk of death, but the evidence has been circumstantial. Now, researchers report that when they removed the Y chromosome from male mice, the animals died earlier than their Y-carrying counterparts, likely because their hearts became stiffer.

“This is the best evidence to date” that losing the Y chromosome is detrimental to health, says John Perry, a human geneticist at the University of Cambridge. Perry led one of the biggest studies on the frequency of Y chromosome loss in men, but wasn’t connected to the new research.

Despite its macho reputation, the Y chromosome is a pipsqueak, carrying a mere 71 genes—less than one-tenth as many as the X chromosome. That may be why the chromosome sometimes doesn’t get passed on when a cell divides. Analyzing blood samples is the easiest way to detect loss of Y, and researchers have found the chromosome is missing from at least some white blood cells in about 40% of 70-year-olds and 57% of 93-year-olds. In some older men, more than 80% of the cells can be short a Y chromosome.

Cells can survive and reproduce without a Y, but men lacking the chromosome in some of their cells are more likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other ageing-related ailments. Moreover, the condition could be a reason why men die on average about five years earlier than women in the United States, says molecular biologist Kenneth Walsh of the University of Virginia.


OK but IN MICE. So many experiments demonstrated in mice haven’t been replicated in humans. Even the most-cited animal studies from scientific journals have only been replicated in humans in 37% of instances. It may be that this is linked, but this is still a leap that might not be justified in fact.
unique link to this extract

Tesla earning reports reveal that it sold 75% of its bitcoin, worth $936m • Watcher News

Vignesh Karunanidhi:


According to the Tesla Q2 earnings report, Elon Musk’s car company has sold 75% of its bitcoin holdings, worth $936m.

The sale was categorized under the earnings report as “proceeds from the sales of digital assets” as per the report published on Wednesday.

Tesla is a well-known cryptocurrency investor, having put billions into bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. To ride the cryptocurrency market wave, Elon Musk has been investing a large portion of his wealth in cryptocurrencies.

The current bitcoin holdings are currently way down from their previously reported $1.26bn. The 75% sales bring the firm’s current bitcoin holdings to $218m.

The information provided by Bitcointreasuries shows that Tesla previously had 43,200 BTC.


Very much depends when Tesla sold: the April-June quarter covers a period when bitcoin’s price varied from $46,000 to $19,000. Molly White calculates that the sale came when the price was around $28,900, having bought at $31-32,000. Oops. That’s 7-10% below the purchase price. Between this and Twitter, are we really thinking Elon’s such an amazing person at every deal? Musk says it was to maximise the cash position, because China (a major market) is still yo-yoing (not his words) in and out of Covid lockdowns.

Of course, even though it happened in the past, this news made bitcoin’s price drop again: it’s as prone to fainting fits as a dowager duchess in an amateur dramatic performance.
unique link to this extract

Crypto miners moved over $300m of bitcoin in one day • CNBC

MacKenzie Sigalos:


New data from blockchain analytics firm CryptoQuant shows that miners are rapidly exiting their bitcoin positions.

14,000 bitcoin, worth more than $300m at its current price, was transferred out of wallets belonging to miners in a single 24-hour period at the end of last week — and in the last few weeks, miners have offloaded the largest amount of bitcoin since Jan. 2021. The phenomenon is called “miner capitulation,” and it typically indicates that miners are preparing to sell their previously mined coins in order to cover ongoing mining expenses.

Bitcoin is currently trading around $21,600, up about 3% in the last 24 hours. Still, the wider crypto market has been in a slump for months, with bitcoin down nearly 70% from its all-time high of around $69,000 in Nov. 2021.

Meanwhile, inflation is on a tear, and the cost of energy is hitting record highs as the war between Russia and Ukraine rages on.

Lower bitcoin prices and higher energy costs are compressing profit margins for miners, which is part of why some are selling bitcoin at current prices to try to contain exposure to continued volatility in the sector and mitigate against further risk to their bottom line.

“Given rising electricity costs, and bitcoin’s steep price decline, the cost of mining a bitcoin may be higher than its price for some miners,” Citi analyst Joseph Ayoub wrote in a note on July 5.


Much as I predicted at the end of June: electricity bills came due, and those aren’t paid in funny money.
unique link to this extract

The people you meet at airports: an illustrated encyclopedia • Washington Post

Natalie Compton, illustrations by Anthony Calvert:


Getting through the airport these days can feel like an obstacle course. Yes, things were bad before the pandemic, but the recent air-travel hell has upped the ante.

From the moment you arrive at the curb, you’re up against chaos, or at least the potential for it. If you’re still checking a bag these days (don’t do it!), there’s the line at the check-in counter. Next, you’re praying you can get something to eat before your flight.

And the biggest hurdle of all? Other people. You’re jostling through security, crammed together in the food court, shoulder-to-shoulder at the gate and packed onto the plane.

These are the people you’ll meet — or avoid — at the airport.


Entertaining. I’ve certainly been at least one of these people. See also: the illustrated encyclopedia of sleeping positions on a plane.
unique link to this extract

My son didn’t need a scientific miracle, he just needed an iPad • The Verge

David Perry’s son, aged 15, is autistic with Down syndrome:


My son’s most significant needs relate to speech. By the time he was three, it was clear he was not going to predominantly use verbal speech, though he was learning to communicate in a wide variety of ways. His speech therapist at the time quickly sent us to a world-class facility to assess the best way for him to use tech to talk. At the time, Nico’s healthcare and education costs were covered by the “early intervention” programs in Illinois — statewide systems funded by federal, state, and local dollars intended to help children under three years of age meet “developmental milestones.”

We tried a wide variety of devices, but because he had the manual dexterity to operate the simplest one, that’s the one the state would pay for. Within a few weeks after having it prescribed, we had a plastic box where you could literally cut and paste pieces of paper with words and pictures on it, and then use your voice to record sounds that then my son could press to play out loud. It was over a foot long. It cost over $3,000.

There were much better, and much more expensive, dedicated speech devices on the market, many of which are in fact a marvel of engineering, and do not require exhausted parents to do arts and crafts. But what we needed, we thought, was a speech app; they were just becoming available on mobile platforms like iPads. We wanted Proloquo2go, one of a number of programs that can reproduce words or phrases by selecting from an infinitely customizable menu. It cost $250, which we didn’t have, and needed to be on an iPad, which we also couldn’t afford. The price would have been much lower than our state-funded arts and crafts box, but at the time the system wouldn’t pay for medical programs on non-medical devices. We ultimately got both the tablet and the app thanks to a donor.


His frustration with the bureaucracy is colossal – and understandable.
unique link to this extract

Instagram’s trying to make it easier to find nearby businesses • The Verge

Mitchell Clark:


Instagram’s latest update aims to make it easier for users to find local businesses or attractions by adding a searchable map that lets you “discover popular local businesses near you,” according to an Instagram Story from Mark Zuckerberg. The map will show you a list of places nearby and will let you see posts about a certain place or see only certain types of business.

There are a few ways to get to the map — if someone tags a place in a post or story, you can tap on the tag and hit “see location” to get to the location’s page. If you move around on the map, you’ll then be able to search the area to see what’s nearby.

Navigating to the map and searching it from a story sticker.
You can also search for places (including entire cities) in the Explore tab. Tapping on a place search result will take you to it on the map.


Could not be less interested in this “update”. But it also shows how every single one of the Meta apps is trying to become everything everywhere all at once: the messaging-maps-business-photos-videos-comments product. Instagram, as the only one that maybe is showing any growth (or at least not dwindling) is bearing the worst of this feature creep brunt.
unique link to this extract

• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Read Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.