NEWS

A New Humanoid Robot Has the Most Advanced and Realistic Facial Expressions Yet

A U.K.-based company Engineered Arts has developed a humanoid robot that can display human-like expressions with ease. Interesting Engineering reports: In a short video released on YouTube, the company shows off its most advanced humanoid, dubbed Ameca, which is initially a platform for testing robotic technologies. As is seen in the video [...], the humanoid appears to have woken up in a robotic laboratory while an actual human is busy working in the background. The robot moves its arms, shows a flurry of expressions in a matter of seconds, and even expresses amazement at how its hands and fingers move fluidly before looking at the camera quite surprised. The teaser is a sufficient demonstration of what the robot can do when it comes to the upper half of the body. Its lower half though is quite non-functional at the moment. For a humanoid robot, Ameca still can't walk, the Engineered Arts website says. Even though the company has carried out research on this, it hasn't transferred the learnings to the robot yet. [...] Engineered Arts uses a modular architecture for its building its robots. So, upgrades to both, software and hardware components can be made without having to purchase a new robot altogether. So, sooner or later, Ameca will walk too. Ameca is powered by Engineered Arts' Tritium operating system that allows companies engaged in the development of robotics to test their technologies. Whether it is artificial intelligence or machine learning technology that companies or startups are developing, they can test and even demonstrate their tech in front of a live audience using Ameca. According to its website, Engineered Arts can even rent out Ameca for expos or live TV discussions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Fake Covid-19 Vaccine Certificates Are Being Advertised On the Dark Web

Criminals have been selling fake vaccine certificates online and may be able to fool an EU system designed to verify the certificates' validity, researchers warn. BankInfoSecurity reports: [A] report released last week, "COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates in the Dark Web," which has not yet been peer-reviewed, notes that some darknet markets continue to sell supposed vaccine certificates for use in multiple countries. Four researchers - Dimitrios Georgoulias, Jens Myrup Pedersen, Morten Falch, Emmanouil Vasilomanolakis - who are all part of the Cyber Security Group at Aalborg University in Copenhagen, Denmark, reviewed vaccination certificate offerings from 17 marketplaces and 10 vendor shops. The researchers found that at least one vendor appears to be selling digital certificates, registered in Italy, that are being read as valid by mobile COVID-19 certificate-checking apps developed by both France and Denmark. The Aalborg University researchers, however, note that many darknet markets forbid any listing containing any items related to COVID-19. But others, they say, do allow both physical and digital vaccine certificates to be offered for sale, and in some cases also "yellow vaccination cards" or other vaccination record cards that can be used as proof of vaccination, albeit only inside the country in which they were supposedly issued. "The listings are heavily focused on European countries and the United States, but there are also listings from other continents and countries, such as Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Australia," as well as Russia, the researchers write. "The pricing differs greatly between the different listings, with the cheapest certificate starting at $39 and the highest price reaching almost $2,800, which included both a physical and a digital certificate, registered in the United Kingdom," they write. Most markets accept bitcoin and monero cryptocurrencies as payment, they add, while a smaller number also take such digital coins as ethereum, cardano, litecoin and zcash. [...] The Aalborg University researchers note that buying a fake digital certificate gives the seller ample opportunity to scam a buyer. If these fake COVID-19 certificates can indeed pass for valid ones, then one unanswered question remains: How? Many of the sites claim to have access to the systems used to issue certificates, either by hacking into them remotely, or having insiders who work at a healthcare or other health organization, the researchers say. "In the specific case of a listing on the Russian marketplace Hydra, the description even mentioned the exact location and hospital that the system was accessed from," they say. Another possibility, however, is that criminals have somehow stolen one or more private keys for the European system, which were issued to participating health organizations. If so, it would be difficult to revoke these keys, the researchers say, since doing so would invalidate what might be a large quantity of legitimate certificates too.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Late Night Open Thread: The GOP Is No Longer A Political Party…

… It’s a death cult with an outsized media platform. It’s monsters, and morons, and moronic monsters.

Some commentor recently took objection to the phrase ‘rooting for injuries’, but really — what else can we say?

Hoping there are no fatalities among innocent bystanders when the inevitable shootout starts?

Reminder: Kevin McCarthy publicly ‘joked’ about hitting Speaker Pelosi with her own gavel:


Views differ…

The post Late Night Open Thread: The GOP Is No Longer A Political Party… appeared first on Balloon Juice.

2022 Pet Calendars Are Ready to Order!

The 2022 Pets of Balloon Juice Calendars are ready to order!

Calendar A

Preview of 2022 Pets of Balloon Juice: Calendar A!

Calendar B

Final Preview of 2022 Pets of Balloon Juice: Calendar B! 1

Calendar proceeds  go directly to the pet rescue.

You can click this link to order or you can order by clicking Link to Order 2022 Calendars in the sidebar.

If you have pets in the calendars and have not yet reviewed the calendars, please do so before placing your order – spreadsheets that tell you which calendar your guys are in and previews of each month are in the sidebar.

If you find a problem, corrections can still be made.  But the calendar has to be changed BEFORE you place your order with Cafe Press.  The calendars are printed on demand by Cafe Press, and there’s no way to stop an order once you place it.

If you find an issue:

  1. Notify us in this post
  2. Wait for us to let you know that it has been fixed and that the calendar page has been updated
  3. Review the calendar again to verify all is good
  4. Then place your order.

Calendars are $25 each.  Cafe Press raised the base cost of calendars this year, and you guys swore a blood oath that raising the price by $2 would not affect your purchase, so we are counting on that.  Well, it looked like they were raising their prices, but they didn’t.  So we didn’t.

John Cole says: “Check the god-damn previews before you order.”  (Or he would say that if he knew we were this close to being able to order.)

2022 Pets Calendars!

The post 2022 Pet Calendars Are Ready to Order! appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Australia Is the Drunkest Country In the World, Survey Finds

Australians have been named the heaviest drinkers in the world after spending more time drunk in 2020 than any other nation. The Guardian reports: An international survey (PDF) has found Australians drank to the point of drunkenness an average of 27 times a year, almost double the global average of 15. Almost a quarter of Australians reported feeling regret for becoming intoxicated. The Global Drug Survey asked more than 32,000 people from 22 countries what their drug and alcohol consumption was last year. On average, Australians drank alcohol in line with the global average of two nights a week, and became heavily drunk about once every two weeks. The French topped that metric, drinking around three times a week. Australian participants also tripled the global average on seeking emergency care for their drinking (3.9% compared with the global average of 1.2%). "Global Drug Survey researcher Dr Monica Barratt said Australia's high rate of drunkenness might be related to most of the country avoiding Covid lockdowns in 2020," the report adds. "Bar Victoria, most states and territories only went through short and sharp lockdowns, with relatively few cases or deaths, allowing hospitality venues to remain open and events to continue." On the opposite end of the spectrum were New Zealanders, who became intoxicated "fewer times than almost any other country in the survey, getting drunk about 10 times a year," reports the Guardian. "Danes and Finns spent the most time drinking to excess after Australians, tied at 23.8 times a year. Americans came in third place, becoming intoxicated an average of 23 times in 2020, followed by the British (22.5 times)."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

THIS LEVEL OF INTIMIDATION SEEMS TO BE PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE IN AMERICA NOW

Via Roy Edroso on Twitter, here's a story about a prominent Republican who's making death threats against the Democratic governor and others:
Joe Oltmann, founder and president of the activist group FEC United and host of the “Conservative Daily” podcast, made a series of comments about the hanging of political opponents on his show throughout the week.

On Friday, Oltmann listened as his co-host, Max McGuire, read aloud the names of the 19 Senate Republicans who this week voted with Democrats to approve an 11-week stopgap spending bill....

“There’s your list of 19 traitors to the American people, along with all the other traitors to the American people,” Oltmann said in response. “I want people to go out there and get some wood. The gallows are getting wider and longer. We should be able to build gallows all the way from Washington, D.C., to California.”

“We just have a line of executions of traitors through the United States of America,” Oltmann continued.
More:
Later in Friday’s show, Oltmann talked about an online post responding to [Governor Jared] Polis, in which he said he’d called the governor a liar and a traitor.

“So that’s what I sent to Gov. Polis. Gallows. I had to stretch that rope,” Oltmann said.
The story quotes Oltmann saying that he's being "funny." And this, I guess, is meant to be hilarious, too:
“I went and bought a bunch of rope,” he added. “That way I can pull people behind my car when their body parts fall off, so it’s far enough behind, doesn’t get any blood on it. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that on here.”

... “I’m not being very good today,” Oltmann said. “I almost feel like I’m maybe getting a little too graphic on the fact that I want to hang them from the neck till they’re dead.”
That would be this Joe Oltmann:
A far-right activist who hosted a podcast went public with a fantastical claim just weeks ahead of the 2020 election.

... Colorado’s Joe Oltmann says he listened to a phone call hosted by left-wing "antifa" activists in September 2020.

On the call, Oltmann purports that security director Eric Coomer of Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems said he could fix the vote to guarantee President Trump's re-election defeat.

The claim — denied by Coomer and backed by no evidence — ricocheted through willing conservative media outlets and made its way to the Trump campaign as the basis for its claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Coomer says he and his family have since faced death threats and doxxing. As a result, he went into hiding. He filed a defamation lawsuit -- and Oltmann went on to attack and defy the judge hearing the suit, Marie Avery Moses.
... the man whose claims sparked the firestorm is defying a “civility order” from the judge by attacking her and others on social media.

Oltmann came into the courtroom about 40 minutes after the hearing started on Wednesday....

At the end of the day Wednesday, one of Coomer’s attorneys alerted the judge to disparaging posts Oltmann allegedly made about her on Telegram, a social media website popular with conservatives. The Colorado Sun found Telegram posts from Oltmann accusing the judge of being “so obviously compromised and colluding with the radical agenda” and calling Coomer and his lawyers liars.

Coomer’s lawyers told Moses they wanted the posts to stop: “This endangers us, our client and the court.”

... Oltmann vowed Wednesday night to defy the judge’s order, which he likened to “Nazi Germany” and even threatened to sue her....

... He’s already defied court orders in the case. In August, the judge ordering him to pay costs and legal fees for the plaintiffs when he didn’t show up to an in-person deposition.... the judge barred his lawyers from disputing certain evidence after he refused to identify the alleged person who got him access to Coomer’s private Facebook posts.
Oltmann is always like this. Here's an October 2020 story I told you about a few months ago:
At an event yesterday intended to showcase the candidates whom the new conservative political group FEC United is supporting, founder Joe Oltmann threatened to dox journalists who report negatively about the group.

Oltmann claims FEC United has identified Antifa members “that are actually journalists writing stories about us.”

“I’ll put them on billboards,” he told the crowd of Republican candidates and supporters, which took place at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison. “We’re coming for you... If you’re part of the media and you write something bad about us, better take your byline off it.”
Oltmann isn't a fringe figure:
Kristi Burton Brown, currently the chair of the Colorado Republican Party, served as the president of Oltmann’s FEC United group as recently as November 2020, according to a deposition Oltmann gave in the defamation case....

George Brauchler, a former district attorney for the 18th Judicial District and former GOP candidate for attorney general, responded in a September podcast interview to concerns about his ties with Oltmann. PIN Business Network, a data services company formerly run by Oltmann, has been an advertiser on Brauchler’s own radio show.

“Joe is a friend,” Brauchler said at the time. “We disagree on the election stuff. ... I’m not running away from Joe, I still am friendly with Joe.”
Will Oltmann just keep talking like this until someone is killed?

Friday Night Soother

Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s eight Ring-tailed Lemur babies are now approximately two months of age and becoming very active as they continue to grow and develop.

The babies have started trying solid foods and are becoming very playful. They can often be spotted jumping from one climbing structure to another or playing in the trees together on their island home.

“The babies are starting to eat branches and leaves as well as trying vegetable pieces more and more now. They are still suckling from their mums which is to be expected as most of their nutrition is coming from their mother’s milk,” said Primate keeper, Sasha Brook.

Over the next couple of months, the Ring-tailed Lemur babies will get better at climbing and will also start to sort out their own hierarchy.

“For Ring-tailed Lemurs it is the females that are in charge in the group, so some of the male babies are still yet to work this out,” said Sasha.

All of the mothers are being very attentive to all of the babies, not just their own. This is known as alloparenting, although this behaviour is being observed less now that the babies are getting older.

“A great time to see the Ring-tailed Lemur babies is in the mornings just when the Zoo opens as the group is fed at this time and they are often very active,” said Sasha. 

Keepers hope to name the Ring-tailed Lemur babies in the coming weeks.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to two groups of Ring-tailed Lemurs, a breeding group near the Savannah picnic ground and a bachelor group in the Savannah Visitor Plaza precinct. The breeding group now has 17 individuals including the most recent babies, whilst the bachelor group has four individuals. 

h/t Zooborns

A Mysterious Threat Actor Is Running Hundreds of Malicious Tor Relays

Since at least 2017, a mysterious threat actor has run thousands of malicious servers in entry, middle, and exit positions of the Tor network in what a security researcher has described as an attempt to deanonymize Tor users. The Record reports: Tracked as KAX17, the threat actor ran at its peak more than 900 malicious servers part of the Tor network, which typically tends to hover around a daily total of up to 9,000-10,000. Some of these servers work as entry points (guards), others as middle relays, and others as exit points from the Tor network. Their role is to encrypt and anonymize user traffic as it enters and leaves the Tor network, creating a giant mesh of proxy servers that bounce connections between each other and provide the much-needed privacy that Tor users come for. Servers added to the Tor network typically must have contact information included in their setup, such as an email address, so Tor network administrators and law enforcement can contact server operators in the case of a misconfiguration or file an abuse report. However, despite this rule, servers with no contact information are often added to the Tor network, which is not strictly policed, mainly to ensure there's always a sufficiently large number of nodes to bounce and hide user traffic. But a security researcher and Tor node operator going by Nusenu told The Record this week that it observed a pattern in some of these Tor relays with no contact information, which he first noticed in 2019 and has eventually traced back as far as 2017. Grouping these servers under the KAX17 umbrella, Nusenu says this threat actor has constantly added servers with no contact details to the Tor network in industrial quantities, operating servers in the realm of hundreds at any given point. The actor's servers are typically located in data centers spread all over the world and are typically configured as entry and middle points primarily, although KAX17 also operates a small number of exit points. Nusenu said this is strange as most threat actors operating malicious Tor relays tend to focus on running exit points, which allows them to modify the user's traffic. KAX17's focus on Tor entry and middle relays led Nusenu to believe that the group, which he described as "non-amateur level and persistent," is trying to collect information on users connecting to the Tor network and attempting to map their routes inside it. In research published this week and shared with The Record, Nusenu said that at one point, there was a 16% chance that a Tor user would connect to the Tor network through one of KAX17's servers, a 35% chance they would pass through one of its middle relays, and up to 5% chance to exit through one. While all signs point to a nation-level and well-resourced threat actor who is behind this group, neither Nusenu nor the Tor Project wanted to speculate.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hackers Are Spamming Businesses’ Receipt Printers With ‘Antiwork’ Manifestos

Dozens of printers across the internet are printing out a manifesto that encourages workers to discuss their pay with coworkers, and pressure their employers. Motherboard reports: "ARE YOU BEING UNDERPAID?" one of the manifestos read, according to several screenshots posted on Reddit and Twitter. "You have a protected LEGAL RIGHT to discuss your pay with your coworkers. [...] POVERTY WAGES only exist because people are 'willing' to work for them." On Tuesday, a Reddit user wrote in a post that the manifesto was getting randomly printed at his job. "Which one of you is doing this because it's hilarious," the user wrote. "Me and my co-workers need answers." Some people on Reddit have suggested that the messages are fake (i.e. printed by people with access to a receipt printer and posted for Reddit clout) or as part of a conspiracy to make it seem like the r/antiwork subreddit is doing something illegal. But Andrew Morris, the founder of GreyNoise, a cybersecurity firm that monitors the internet, told Motherboard that his firm has seen actual network traffic going to insecure receipt printers, and that it seems someone or multiple people are sending these printing jobs all over the internet indiscriminately, as if spraying or blasting them all over. Morris has a history of catching hackers exploiting insecure printers. "Someone is using a similar technique as 'mass scanning' to massively blast raw TCP data directly to printer services across the internet," Morris told Motherboard in an online chat. "Basically to every single device that has port TCP 9100 open and print a pre-written document that references /r/antiwork with some workers rights/counter capitalist messaging." Whoever is doing this, Morris said, is doing it "in an intelligent way." "The person or people behind this are distributing the mass-print from 25 separate servers so blocking one IP isn't enough," he said. "A technical person is broadcasting print requests for a document containing workers rights messaging to all printers that are misconfigured to be exposed to the internet and we've confirmed that it is printing successfully in some number of places the exact number would be difficult to confirm but Shodan suggests that thousands of printers are exposed," he added, referring to Shodan, a tool that scans the internet for insecure computers, servers, and other devices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Uh oh. It looks like little kids might be at risk from Omicron.

We’ll have to see if this holds up in other countries but it’s an ominous sign:

The “highly transmissible” Omicron variant of coronavirus ripping through South Africa is putting disproportionately large numbers of children under 5 years old in hospitals, a top South African government medical adviser said Friday.

The alarming development raises the prospect of a new global battle cycle against the virus, given that the new variant has already spread to dozens of countries. The South African scientists also said the new variant was spreading much quicker than any previous wave of the coronavirus.

In a worrying virtual press conference, government adviser Waasila Jassat, speaking about the worst-affected area of Gauteng province (which includes the city of Johannesburg), said: “It’s clear in Gauteng, the week-on-week increase we’re seeing in cases and admissions is higher than we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen quite a sharp increase [in hospital admissions] across all age groups but particularly in the under 5s.”

She added: “The incidence in those under 5 is now second highest, second only to those over 60. The trend that we’re seeing now, that is different to what we’ve seen before, is a particular increase in hospital admissions in children under 5 years.

“We’ve always seen children not being very heavily affected by the COVID epidemic in the past, not having many admissions. In the third wave, we saw more admissions in young children under 5 and in teenagers, 15-19, and now, at the start of this fourth wave, we have seen quite a sharp increase across all age groups, but particularly in the under 5s.”

Jassat produced graphs that clearly showed how children under 5 years old are now being hospitalized at an alarming rate.

She said, for example, that in the city of Tshwane Metro, more than 100 children under the age of 5 were admitted to hospitals with COVID in the first two weeks of the new fourth wave (Nov. 14 to 27). In the first two weeks of the country’s third wave, in May of this year, fewer than 20 children were admitted to hospitals.

In a follow-up question-and-answer session, asked about the extraordinary numbers of children being admitted to hospital, Jassat said she suspected there might be an “immunity gap” and that the lack of vaccination of children might account for the numbers.

I don’t know what to say about that. Kids under five have not been cleared for vaccines. A lot of parents haven’t been willing to vaccinate their kids over five. Way too many people haven’t bothered to get themselves boosted. And 40% of Republican adults are still refusing to get vaccinated.

Now, maybe none of that makes a difference. We might find out that the vaccines simply don’t work at all on Omicron. But so far, it appears that while it is very transmissible, the vaccines will retain at least some of their potency against it. Fingers crossed. But either way, it looks like we are in for bad winter. Don’t throw away you masks and get some new filters for your Hepa filters.

sigh