FDA approves contraceptive app Natural Cycles

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The FDA has now granted marketing approval to an app that tracks a user’s temperature and menstrual cycle in order to determine which days they are fertile and which days they aren’t. The contraceptive app, called Natural Cycles, was approved in Europe last year. "Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly," said Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "But women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device."

Though it has been approved elsewhere and boasts more than 625,000 users, Natural Cycles hasn’t gone without controversy. Earlier this year, a Swedish hospital reported the app to the Swedish Medical Products Agency after it found that of 668 women who sought abortions over a time period of four months, 37 were using Natural Cycles as their method of contraception. "No contraception is 100 percent and unwanted pregnancies is an unfortunate risk with any contraception," the company said at the time. It added that the unwanted pregnancies of those 37 individuals fell within its typical use efficacy rate. In July, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority launched an investigation into the company over claims made in a Facebook ad it ran last year.

Last year, Natural Cycles released a study it helped conduct that found its method to be 99 percent accurate when used perfectly, meaning the user didn’t participate in unprotected sexual intercourse on days when the app said they were fertile. When used "typically," it was 93 percent effective, according to the study. Natural Cycles’ website says that typical use contraceptive failure could be due to any number of reasons including the app mistakenly saying a fertile day was a non-fertile day or a user having unprotected sex on a fertile day.

The FDA approved Natural Cycles through its premarket review regulatory pathway, which looks at low- to moderate-risk health tech devices. The app costs $10 per month or $80 per year.

Source: FDA

from Engadget https://engt.co/2OtsSP0
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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launches tonight to ‘touch the sun’

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NASA’s ambitious mission to go closer to the Sun than ever before is set to launch in the small hours between Friday and Saturday — at 3:33 AM Eastern from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to be precise. The Parker Solar Probe, after a handful of gravity assists and preliminary orbits, will enter a stable orbit around the enormous nuclear fireball that gives us all life and sample its radiation from less than 4 million miles away. Believe me, you don’t want to get much closer than that.

If you’re up late tonight (technically tomorrow morning), you can watch the launch live on NASA’s stream.

This is the first mission named after a living researcher, in this case Eugene Parker, who in the ’50s made a number of proposals and theories about the way that stars give off energy. He’s the guy who gave us solar wind, and his research was hugely influential in the study of the sun and other stars — but it’s only now that some of his hypotheses can be tested directly. (Parker himself visited the craft during its construction, and will be at the launch. No doubt he is immensely proud and excited about this whole situation.)

“Directly” means going as close to the sun as technology allows — which leads us to the PSP’s first major innovation: its heat shield, or thermal protection system.

There’s one good thing to be said for the heat near the sun: it’s a dry heat. Because there’s no water vapor or gases in space to heat up, find some shade and you’ll be quite comfortable. So the probe is essentially carrying the most heavy-duty parasol ever created.

It’s a sort of carbon sandwich, with superheated carbon composite on the outside and a carbon foam core. All together it’s less than a foot thick, but it reduces the temperature the probe’s instruments are subjected to from 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 — actually cooler than it is in much of the U.S. right now.

Go on – it’s quite cool.

The car-sized Parker will orbit the sun and constantly rotate itself so the heat shield is facing inward and blocking the brunt of the solar radiation. The instruments mostly sit behind it in a big insulated bundle.

And such instruments! There are three major experiments or instrument sets on the probe.

WISPR (Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe) is a pair of wide-field telescopes that will watch and image the structure of the corona and solar wind. This is the kind of observation we’ve made before — but never from up close. We generally are seeing these phenomena from the neighborhood of the Earth, nearly 100 million miles away. You can imagine that cutting out 90 million miles of cosmic dust, interfering radiation and other nuisances will produce an amazingly clear picture.

SWEAP (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons investigation) looks out to the side of the craft to watch the flows of electrons as they are affected by solar wind and other factors. And on the front is the Solar Probe Cup (I suspect this is a reference to the Ray Bradbury story, “Golden Apples of the Sun”), which is exposed to the full strength of the sun’s radiation; a tiny opening allows charged particles in, and by tracking how they pass through a series of charged windows, they can sort them by type and energy.

FIELDS is another that gets the full heat of the sun. Its antennas are the ones sticking out from the sides — they need to in order to directly sample the electric field surrounding the craft. A set of “fluxgate magnetometers,” clearly a made-up name, measure the magnetic field at an incredibly high rate: two million samples per second.

They’re all powered by solar panels, which seems obvious, but actually it’s a difficult proposition to keep the panels from overloading that close to the sun. They hide behind the shield and just peek out at an oblique angle, so only a fraction of the radiation hits them.

Even then, they’ll get so hot that the team needed to implement the first-ever active water cooling system on a spacecraft. Water is pumped through the cells and back behind the shield, where it is cooled by, well, space.

The probe’s mission profile is a complicated one. After escaping the clutches of the Earth, it will swing by Venus, not to get a gravity boost, but “almost like doing a little handbrake turn,” as one official described it. It slows it down and sends it closer to the sun — and it’ll do that seven more times, each time bringing it closer and closer to the sun’s surface, ultimately arriving in a stable orbit 3.83 million miles above the surface — that’s 95 percent of the way from the Earth to the sun.

On the way it will hit a top speed of 430,000 miles per hour, which will make it the fastest spacecraft ever launched.

Parker will make 24 total passes through the corona, and during these times communication with Earth may be interrupted or impractical. If a solar cell is overheating, do you want to wait 20 minutes for a decision from NASA on whether to pull it back? No. This close to the sun even a slight miscalculation results in the reduction of the probe to a cinder, so the team has imbued it with more than the usual autonomy.

It’s covered in sensors in addition to its instruments, and an onboard AI will be empowered to make decisions to rectify anomalies. That sounds worryingly like a HAL 9000 situation, but there are no humans on board to kill, so it’s probably okay.

The mission is scheduled to last seven years, after which time the fuel used to correct the craft’s orbit and orientation is expected to run out. At that point it will continue as long as it can before drift causes it to break apart and, one rather hopes, become part of the sun’s corona itself.

The Parker Solar Probe is scheduled for launch early Saturday morning, and we’ll update this post when it takes off successfully or, as is possible, is delayed until a later date in the launch window.

from TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2nrixYb
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How to Photograph a Meteor Shower

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Image: Pexels

The Perseid Meteor shower is expected to peak Sunday and Monday evening, which means it will be prime time to catch a glimpse of a falling star (or 20). Over 75 shooting stars are expected to fly by an hour, which means you should be able to catch that glimpse not only with your eyes but also with your camera.

If you want to try your hand at snapping a few pics on the big event, here are some tips from NASA on how to make the magic happen:

Go At The Right Time

The “best” time to take a picture of the meteor shower is going to be between midnight and 3am. Forecasters think that the shower will be at its peak during those times. You’ll certainly be able to see some of the shower all night, but 12am-3am is going to be the sweet spot.

Turn Down the Lights

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you’re going to be better off heading somewhere in the country to see the shower rather than standing on your rooftop in the middle of the city. City lights can make it harder for you to see passing meteors. The same goes for your camera, if you’re using an LCD screen to frame up and shoot photos, turn the brightness down on it so you can see fainter meteors passing by.

Have the Right Equipment

NASA recommends having both a tripod and a wide-angle lens to catch the shower. Meteor showers require long exposures, so a tripod is a must-have to make sure you’re able to get a clear shot. Otherwise, movement from even you breathing can wind up making that long exposure a blurry mess. A wide-angle lens will help you capture more of the sky around you (and give you a better chance of nabbing a shot of something as it’s passing through your view).

NASA also recommends using a shutter release cable of your camera’s built-in timer to capture shots, for the same reason as the tripod, this ensures your movement doesn’t shake your camera and ruin the picture.

Use Manual Focus

Meteor showers are not the time for autofocus. Turn it off, and instead set your camera’s focus to infinity. Try a few test shots on stars to make sure you’ve got that focus right, and tweak things as necessary.

Figure Out Exposure

You can figure out your maximum exposure time by dividing the number 500 by the length of your lens. The number you get is how long you can keep your shutter open before you’ll see star trails in your pics. If you want those, then shoot for longer, if you would rather they stay out of your shot, keep the exposure shorter.

Trial and Error

If this is your first time shooting a meteor shower, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. Go early and play around to figure out what’s going to work. If your picture looks too dark, adjust your aperture to a lower number and your ISO to a higher number. Gently tweak those (one at a time!) until you find the perfect mix for your shooting situation.

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And have fun! You’re likely to have a lot more failures than successes your first go-around, but the more you practice the better you’ll be, and the better your pics will be the next time there’s another big event.

from Lifehacker http://bit.ly/2B1S5y4
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Could this weird $12 gadget be the cure for snoring?

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Could this weird $12 gadget be the cure for snoring?

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.

If you've ever had a partner who snores, you know you'll try anything.
If you’ve ever had a partner who snores, you know you’ll try anything.

Image: RAWtronics

By Team CommerceMashable Deals

Chances are, you’ve encountered an awful snorer at some point in your life. Maybe it was that person you sat next to on a trans-Atlantic flight. Maybe it was your old college roommate. Maybe it’s your partner. Who knows? Maybe it’s you.

Snoring is common — the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found 40% of men and 24% of women are noisy sleepers — but totally annoying.

That’s where RAWTronics’ Anti-Snoring Device comes in. Made of a FDA-approved plastic, this quirky gizmo is designed to reduce snoring and leave you with a smooth, silent slumber.

Simply stick the two prongs into your nostrils — they’re shaped like your nostrils to ensure the perfect fit — and allow yourself to fall asleep. People snore because they can’t move air freely through their nose and throat, but this device helps with that to apparently stop the snoring.

Available in three fun colors — red, blue, and white — this device is also BPA and phthalate free, so you can safely use it night after night.

You can normally buy a pack of two devices for $35, however, it’s currently on sale for $11.99 – that’s over 60% off! Let’s face it: If you snore or know someone who does, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

from Mashable! http://bit.ly/2P3PTZU
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Crypto Unicorn Bitmain Weighs $18 Billion IPO, One of World’s Largest

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Bitmain Technologies, Ltd. is about to go public.

According to documents obtained by CoinDesk, the cryptocurrency mining company is filing for an initial public offering (IPO) potentially as high as $18 billion this September at a market capitalization of $40 to $50 billion. It will be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in Q4 2018 or Q1 2019 amid a wave of Chinese unicorns hitting the public markets, including bitcoin mining competitors Canaan Creative and Ebang Communication.

One of the most valuable cryptocurrency companies, Bitmain closed a $1 billion pre-IPO financing round on July 23 at a $15 billion valuation, nearly two times cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase’s $8 billion valuation, reported in April.

The possible $18 billion IPO sticker price positions Bitmain to displace social giant Facebook as one of the largest public offerings in history. SoftBank Group and Tencent Music are expected to top Alibaba and Spotify for the number one and two IPOs of all-time in the same fiscal period.

Tencent Holdings, Ltd., Softbank Group, China National Gold Group and an unnamed sovereign wealth fund managing $15 billion in assets participated in the pre-IPO round. A minimum commitment of $5 million was deadlined by July 18 and signed over to Bitmain Technologies Holding Company, the offshore Cayman Islands investment holding group that has been linked to Chinese technology billionaire Lei Jun, founder of consumer electronics company Xiaomi, Inc.

Before this latest funding, Sequoia Capital China led Bitmain’s $50 million Series A and $400 million Series B rounds with the help of San Francisco’s IDG Capital, Menlo Park’s Coatue Management, Russia’s DST Global and Singapore’s EDBI and GIC. The Series A round accounted for 5 percent of shares at a post-mortem valuation of $1 billion, while the Series B round valued the company at $12 billion.

Projected share price and volume are not disclosed, but investment banks close to the IPO are calculating the P/E ratio to be 20 within the first publicly traded year.

Financial numbers supporting this multiple indicate that Bitmain profited $3.2 billion in total across 2016, 2017 and Q1 2018, with revenues of $2.5 billion in 2017 and $2 billion in Q1 2018. Bitmain is forecasting $2 billion in profit by year’s end.

A diversified crypto strategy

Five years ago, Jihan Wu approached Micree Zhan with the purpose of engineering advanced application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips to mine bitcoin more efficiently. That work established Bitmain, the leading market player in the cryptocurrency mining industry. Operations have since expanded to the alternative cryptocurrencies bitcoin cash, litecoin, dash, siacoin and ethereum.

With the IPO, the co-founders’ combined holdings could amount to roughly $30 billion, assuming they have retained 60 percent of the company together, as per a January 2018 Bloomberg interview.

An investor prospectus for the IPO proves exactly how significant Bitmain’s mining business has been. Last year, Bitmain machines accounted for 66.6 percent of the total mining volume and Bitmain-run cryptocurrency mining pools covered 40 percent of the total mining network.

When the prospectus was drafted, BTC.com, the largest mining pool in the world, counted over 560,000 machines that mined approximately 11,200 out of 36,000 total bitcoin blocks. The second largest mining pool AntPool served more than 440,000 machines for bitcoin and alternative cryptocurrencies.

In addition to income generated by hardware costs and pool transaction fees, Bitmain has made $1 billion, $11 billion and $10 billion off of its 2016, 2017 and 2018 Q1 bitcoin holdings, respectively, revealed to the public for the first time here. Some of the funds have been set aside to back up to 30 blockchain companies for a blockchain research division, which shouldered blockchain data analytics service Blocktrail as early as 2016.

Outside investments are said to represent a broader effort to turn Bitmain into a cryptocurrency infrastructure conglomerate, and this has appeared to be increasingly true in recent months.

Since May, Bitmain has invested in cryptocurrency point-of-sale system BizKey, incubated decentralized exchange DEx.top, financed cryptocurrency payments system Circle, added an Opera web browser ethereum extension and partnered with Huawei Mobile Services on a mobile cryptocurrency application.

Bitmain is also considering using these technologies to build a wallet, exchange and trading platform facilitating the bitcoin cash ecosystem, a spin-off of the original bitcoin cryptocurrency that the Chinese company sees as a likely breadwinner. The investor prospectus says Bitmain is “strategically developing” bitcoin cash by mining, investing and trading the coin and its peripheral technologies to realize substantial returns down the line.

The day before yesterday, Bitmain disclosed an investment in tribeOS, a bitcoin cash advertising network.

Computing the chips

The investor prospectus also gives away details about Bitmain’s circuit design capabilities and how they have compared against other mainstream chip makers over the years.

In 2013, the Bitmain graphics chip progenitor BM1380 utilized the 55-nanometer process. The company then shuffled through the 28-nanometer BM1382, BM1384 and BM1385 chips from 2014 to 2015, before advancing to the 16-nanometer BM1387 chip in 2016 to keep up with competition.

Today, the older generation of chip makers has been struggling to play catch-up. According to the investor prospectus, Bitmain has surpassed Spreadtrum Communications, a 17-year-old company, as the second largest integrated circuit design maker in China.

Huawei HiSilicon, the Chinese chip industry’s frontrunner, is slipping as well.

As of December 2017, Bitmain matched Huawei HiSilicon in 16 nanometer chip sales, while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd., the world’s largest semiconductor company to consumer goods vendors like Apple, Inc., supplied a greater quantity of 10 nanometer chips for Bitmain than the Kirin 970 chip equivalent for Huawei HiSilicon. The unreleased 10 nanometer chip joins a new class of 7 nanometer and 12 nanometer chips that Bitmain will roll out later this year.

In half a decade, Bitmain has captured 8 percent of the domestic chip design market where Huawei HiSilicon has taken 14 years to achieve 17 percent. At this rate, Bitmain could near or overcome Huawei HiSilicon’s local stronghold very soon and, as the investor prospectus suggests, go head-to-head with the U.S. chip industry.

The Chinese market is already nudging out the American market within the worldwide chip economy, although Intel continues to lead the pack.

Silicon Valley has felt the pressure. It was reported back in February that Bitmain was as profitable as 24-year-old Nvidia, which had its stock price target lowered along with AMD’s in April. Analysts pointed to a likely drop-off in Nvidia and AMD chip orders due to Bitmain’s upcoming ethereum mining rig.

Cryptocurrency miners have been less inclined to purchase from Nvidia and AMD when Bitmain can outperform them at a lower cost. Ethereum had been the last major cryptocurrency to be untouched by Bitmain ASICs.

Aiming at AI

Still, U.S. chip makers have not been worried. AMD, 32 years Nvidia’s senior, has assured investors that personal computers, gaming and data centers will sustain the business, with or without cryptocurrencies.

But the logic applies both ways. When almost every electronic device imaginable is powered by a graphics chip, profit outside of cryptocurrencies is possible for Bitmain as well, and the geopolitical incentive in China is stronger than ever.

Bitmain seems to be entirely aware of this fact. The investor prospectus outlines ambitions to enter into other technology fields, in part to “cope with the Chinese government’s ban on ICOs, cryptocurrencies and mining activities,” and in part to grow the company into a supercomputing titan with artificial intelligence.

An in-house artificial intelligence arm is predicted to generate 40 percent of revenue in the next 5 years for this reason. Bitmain is betting that neural network machine learning methods will heighten processing capacity in graphics chips for cryptocurrency and non-cryptocurrency applications alike, as with the BM1680 processor-based tensor computing card, deep learning accelerating card and intelligent server unit.

Bitmain claims testing has even shown that its AI chips have stacked up against the computing power found in Google’s corresponding AI products.

With a team of “nearly 500 people” working on “R&D, platform architecture, algorithm development, software and hardware development,” Bitmain has rapidly drawn on new and existing research from academic institutions and technology companies to pioneer artificially intelligent software and hardware, well beyond the scope of cryptocurrency mining tools.

Right now, the first move is robotics: the acquisition of smart robotics company Luobetec and the production of the Luo Xiaodou robotic pet.

Jihan Wu image via CoinDesk archives 

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Rolls-Royce made miniature robot minions to perform jet-engine inspection

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An innovation you’d completely expect from a Hollywood spy flick, Rolls-Royce has designed tiny robots called SWARM that get deployed within their jet engines to run reconnaissance and inspections.

A part of RR’s IntelligentEngine program, the SWARM get deployed into intricate parts of the engine, giving engineers real-time feedback on performance, wear-tear, etc. The visual data collected by these tiny robots would be used “alongside the millions of data points already generated by today’s engines as part of their Engine Health Monitoring systems.” They’ll work alongside snake-shaped INSPECT robots, providing inspection services, while remote boreblending robots will take on maintenance activities. Pretty nifty as long as they’re just used for producing world-class jet engines and not for world dominance!

Designers: Rolls-Royce, University of Nottingham and Harvard University.

rolls_royce_swarm_1

rolls_royce_swarm_2

from Yanko Design http://bit.ly/2MgrtOi
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Anonymous deals with its QAnon branding problem

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When you’re a notorious hacking entity like Anonymous, and a pro-Trump conspiracy cult (QAnon) steals your branding (while claiming you’re the impostor), the obvious thing to do is declare cyberwar. That’s exactly what Anonymous did this past week in a press announcement, followed by a social media and press offensive.

So far Anonymous has managed to take over QAnon’s hashtags (while adding #OpQAnon and others) and dox a couple hundred members of Trump’s pedophilia-obsessed, "deep state" doomsday cult. QAnon’s mouthpieces responded exactly as we’d expect, with taunts and tweets saying: "These people are STUPID!! They have no brains and no skills. Typical ’empty threat’ terrorists! But DO NOT click their links!! Virus city baby!!"

Take me down to the Virus City

The branding problem is real. QAnon insists they are the "real" Anonymous, all but encouraging public confusion as they’ve co-opted the hacktivist group’s name, tags, phrases, and terms, like calling their members "anons" and saying "[we] are legion."

Calling QAnon "a deformed Alex Jones conspiracy thought bubble," Anonymous hit back in its Anonymous Operation QAnon video.

"We will not sit idly by while you take advantage of the misinformed and poorly educated," Anonymous said. "In our collective we all have our differences and internal drama but we do have one thing in common; none of us are happy with your bullshit. We gonna wreck you."

The problem isn’t just that QAnon is impersonating Anonymous. It’s that QAnon is nothing like Anonymous, and the pro-Trump, anti-resistance, militantly neo-conservative, pedophile-obsessed, anti-immigrant conspiracy cult stands for everything Anonymous opposes. The group’s rhetoric mirrors that of Alex Jones with its false, hysterical calls to action regarding Democrats, "illegals," Muslims, and armed insurrection.

Which is why lots of people are comparing this to Anonymous’ campaigns against the Westboro Baptist Church and Scientology — though especially its operation against the KKK.

Back in November 2014, a Ku Klux Klan group based 75 miles south of Ferguson, Missouri began distributing flyers saying it would use "lethal force" on Ferguson protesters after the grand jury decision about Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Anonymous declared war. It’s probably worth pointing out that the KKK also taunted Anonymous before the shit hit the pillowcase-covered fan. Anonymous seized two primary KKK Twitter accounts (and had fun with them), knocked the website belonging to "Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan" offline — the group responsible for the Ferguson threats — compromised KKK member email accounts, and conducted a phone harassment campaign on KKK members.

Achieving a primary goal of QAnon, much digital ink has been spilled over the past couple of weeks exploring who, or what, QAnon is. In a coordinated effort to get mainstream press attention, attendees of a Tampa, Florida Trump rally August 1st wore "Q" t-shirts and got "Q" signs in the right spots to be filmed by Fox News.

Ignore the sideshow, follow the talking points

QAnon considers themselves "a research group of volunteer patriots" led by a high-clearance U.S. government informant who excretes information and prophecies through cryptic online messages. Their collective hero-myth revolves around a narrative of fighting a secret ring of billionaire, Democrat pedophiles.

In fact, survivors of sexual assault and trauma should be cautioned before looking at QAnon’s social media footprint because it’s quite remarkable, and not a little disturbing, to observe just how much these individuals fixate on pedophilia and pedophiles. The fictional, detailed conspiracies centering on child rape, are QAnon’s nexus, around which is woven a nonsensical tapestry of rhetoric and conspiracy against anything that goes against Trump and MAGA values. None of which is true, despite members’ claims to the contrary.

It’s interesting to look at the events surrounding QAnon’s arrival sometime in October 2017, when the group surfaced on 4chan and then 8chan, and of course, blossomed on Reddit and Facebook. That month, the first charges were filed in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russia interference in the 2016 US election.

Six weeks prior, in mid-August, the first DNC hacker, Guccifer, called Fox News to express his concerns about extradition to the U.S. He also slipped in some praise for Guccifer 2.0. You know, the 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted for the DNC hack that was done in favor of the Trump presidential campaign.

The first Guccifer also told Fox that his source in the U.S. government told him a secret. "So I think Guccifer two-zero is an inside job," Guccifer 1.0 told Fox. "I think Guccifer two-zero is something made from some guys at the State Department. Some guys from the cyber command of the NSA, and some guys from the Vault, Vault 7 of the CIA."

Around six weeks later QAnon arrived on the internet scene armed with conspiracies and meme artwork, social media savvy, and fast propagation. Amid the hackneyed calls to "believe" and fight for "truth" wrapped in "deep state" conspiracy theories, its primary talking point is that the DNC hack was an inside job involving FBI, DOJ and using CIA tech to frame the Russians.

This exact messaging was relayed on InfoWars in December. Sometimes QAnon members bear witness to Q’s "truths" and predictions through Trump’s words and the timing of his choice of topics, cementing their fervor in exclamations of proof. The QAnons think they’re witnessing Trump confirm the prophecies of Q as days go by. It’s more like Q and Trump are reading from the same script.

Disinformation cult

Even if QAnon didn’t spring from the heads of GRU and IRA strategists, fully-formed and in war armor at birth like Athena emerging from Zeus, they’ve had the success of doomsday cults written all over them from the start. It’s like a Russian disinformation campaign dressed up as an Illuminati prophecy cult — with, according to a new investigation by Vox, recruits pulled from The_Donald and "red pill" subreddits.

Like every cult belief system that’s come before them, QAnon has a proto-doomsday event (and requisite moving goalposts for its proof of truths). Branch Davidians had a rapture, Heaven’s Gate had flying saucers, and Aum Shinriko had a third world war. QAnon’s endgame event is alternately called "the storm" and "the awakening," or "great awakening."

As described in When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger, the endgame-belief strategy is accompanied by a phenomenon of believers doubling-down when the event doesn’t happen, and the truths of their leader turn out to be false. It’s a template for getting believers to push a narrative that’s as old as time. There’s a "prophecy" delivered by a "conspiracy" to people who claim to read the "true signs" about an endgame. The faithful will be rewarded, the outside world punished.

Upon a failed prophecy the believers double-down, telling themselves we didn’t believe enough, we’re under attack and must fight harder, we must get more followers and publicity. According to the Festinger team’s research, the fact that the endgame event didn’t happen doesn’t make the conspiracy adherents give up; many become more convinced than ever that their beliefs are going to come to pass.

A honeypot for psychotic breaks

We should probably worry about what might happen next with QAnon. Some say the whole thing is an elaborate prank on Trump supporters. I think believing this is a mistake.

Apparently, so does Anonymous. "We haven’t really talked about QAnon and how utterly stupid the conspiracy theories are behind it," tweeted YourAnonNews. "It is an obvious troll to pull in the far right wing conspiracy mob, and it has worked. QAnon is a fabrication, and eventually people are going to get hurt because of it."

They’re not wrong. "A man was arrested last month after barricading himself inside an armored truck on top of the Hoover Dam in protest of a Justice Department report often cited by QAnon followers," reported American magazine Forward. "True believers also held a march outside the White House in April. In the past month, QAnon has popped up on a billboard in Georgia and at multiple Trump rallies."

It’s probably also worth noting that the man just arrested for the SoCal Holy Fire, Forrest Clark, "recently became fixated with fabricated politically motivated pedophilia, and was an early QAnon ‘researcher’," according to Forbes contributor JJ MacNab.

Anonymous has had some success in its doxing of QAnon members so far. But right now, thanks to the hypocrisies of Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and others, odds are not in the favor of neither hacktivists nor targets of these groups. Until social media platforms stop avoiding their direct responsibility for hosting and distributing QAnon (and Alex Jones), and press outlets stop laughing at the conspiracy nuts, it looks like Anonymous has its work cut out.

Images: Scott Olson via Getty Images (Qanon trio); vovashevchuk via Getty Images (Honey jars)

from Engadget https://engt.co/2MACh6K
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How to Approach Handstands When You’re Still Kinda Scared of Them

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Photo: Cameron Spencer (Getty)

When we launched the handstand challenge last week, I confessed that I’m not really comfortable with being upside down—but I hoped to change that. Yesterday I did a handstand against a wall for the first time, and felt strong and stable. I’ll let you in on a few secrets.

First, I followed the advice of commenter tallnproud and began watching this series of videos on learning to do a handstand. In the very first video, we learn a few things about kicking up to a wall handstand:

  • Bend over and place your hands on the ground before starting to kick up. Don’t try to make it one smooth motion.
  • Point your hands forward (toward the wall).
  • Make sure your elbows are pointing away from the wall, which means your “elbow pits” are facing the wall.
  • Lock out your elbows, or if your joints hyperextend, just try to make your arms as straight as possible. And keep them locked out—if your elbows start to bend, you’re toast.

As luck would have it, one day I stopped in to CrossFit class and the skill of the day was handstand push-ups. That meant I had a suitable wall, a wide open space, and a coach who would stop me if I were about to do something stupid. And, friends, that was all it took. I remembered the points above, planted my hands, and—I did a wall handstand. Several, in fact. And then I took the first baby steps toward kipping (cheater) handstand push-ups, which is a whole adventure in itself.

Proof!
Photo: Beth Skwarecki

If you’re still working on getting upside down, this video from the series mentioned above is a good way to start. It includes a bunch of movements meant to warm up your wrists and shoulders, and ends with practicing how to bail out of a failed handstand. Basically, it’s the same motions as a cartwheel, so you just need to get comfortable doing ugly-looking cartwheels at odd angles. Then this video, with many different ways to approach the handstand, is where the magic happens.

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So, tell us how the challenge is going—have you managed to get your feet off the ground yet? What stage of the process are you working on?

from Lifehacker http://bit.ly/2MfAuHg
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