FYI NSA BTW – WIF Invasion of Privacy

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Intrusive Programs

Run by

the NSA

Before Edward Snowden revealed us an unprecedented amount of the National Security Agency’s activities in 2013, most of us were only vaguely familiar with the shadowy organization and its information-gathering ways. The NSA has its tendrils in virtually every digital aspect of our daily life, to the point that one of their automated information-collecting programs is probably reading this right now (Hi!) and trying to figure out whether we’re a threat to national security (We really aren’t!).

While reports of their current activities are understandably few and far between, thanks to Mr. Snowden and his leaked documents we do have some insight into the things the NSA were up to in 2013 and before that … and it’s not pretty. Here’s a look at some of the agency’s strangest antics.

10. Angry Birds

No, it’s not just a fun code name, or, for that matter, even code name. It’s that Angry Birds.

In 2014, the Guardian reported that the NSA, along with its significantly less catchy British counterpart GCHQ, were looking into various techniques where they can sneak all up the “leaks” of your favorite phone apps, up to and very much including the world’s premier “Birds Vs. Pigs” game. The idea was to slip through the security cracks of the apps in order to reach the users’ personal data, which would provide the agencies with a number of significant advantages. They would gain access to a huge amount of the kind of data that would allow them to exploit people’s phone information on a mass scale, instead of just having to hack their way into our phones one by one like some commoner. Location, as well: When you use Google Maps to find a place, the NSA can use it to find you.

The NSA seems to put great value on such technology, to the point where one 2010 presentation called it a “Golden Nugget” before rattling off a long list of information the agency could gather from just a single picture uploaded on social media. Fortunately, this plan was among the documents Edward Snowden leaked in 2013, so at least we’re aware that some of America’s taxpayer dollars go towards surreptitiously scrolling through your contact lists as you play Candy Crush or whatever.

9. Boundless Informant

Congress has occasionally challenged the NSA about what they do with all the data they collect from American citizens. One of the agency’s go-to defenses has been that they have no way of keeping track of the waves of information crashing on their shores, but in 2013, it turned out that a secretive agency might, in fact, have been lying about its methods. It’s shocking, we know.

Congress has occasionally challenged the NSA about what they do with all the data they collect from American citizens. One of the agency’s go-to defenses has been that they have no way of keeping track of the waves of information crashing on their shores, but in 2013, it turned out that a secretive agency might, in fact, have been lying about its methods. It’s shocking, we know.

Boundless Informant is a highly sophisticated data mining tool the NSA uses to analyze and record its surveillance information. It’s essentially a hyper-competent archivist that sifts through the sea of data and arranges it to neat folders. However, it doesn’t appear to do it by user — unless they decide to take a personal interest in you, Boundless Informant probably doesn’t have a folder of your most embarrassing emails and IMs. Instead, the system sifts through the incoming information by “counting and categorizing” the communications records metadata (sets of data that describe other data). However, the level of detail it goes to even includes individual IP addresses … which, as you may know, can totally be tracked down to the countries they’re from.

8. Dishfire

SMS texting is slowly but steadily going the way of the dodo as instant messaging platforms are taking over, but the NSA has been collecting them like they were coming back in fashion. According to the 2013 data leak, the Dishfire program performs a daily, global and supposedly untargeted sweep of SMS messages, and took them to a second program called Prefer, which automatically analyzed them for assorted red flags.

The agency was head over heels about this particular avenue of information collection, to the point where a 2011 presentation was titled “SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit.” They weren’t exactly wrong, either: automated messages, international roaming charge texts, missed call alerts, electronic business cards and text-to-text payments gave them access to unprecedentedly clear metadata in ridiculous droves.

To put the scale of the operations in context, at the time of the leaks the NSA was able to collect over five million missed-call alerts (for contact chaining analysis), Around 800,000 money transactions, 1.6 million border crossings, over 110,000 names, 76,000 people’s real-time locations, and a total of nearly 200 million SMS messages. Per day. 

7. Egoistical Goat and its friends

The anonymous Tor network is obviously a bit of a problem for an information-gathering entity like the NSA, but it appears the agency had already made some progress to lift the veil of secrecy as early as in 2013.

To crack down Tor’s information safe, the agency created a number of programs with increasingly stupid names, all lovingly crafted to compromise Tor user anonymity. There was Egoistical Goat and its sister programs Egoistical Giraffe and Erroneous Identity, which tried to worm their way in the Firefox parts of the Tor Bundles in order to identify users. Before them, the NSA had Mjoliner, which was meant to divert Tor users to insecure channels, and a marking operation called Mullenize, which was the online equivalent of a surveillance helicopter trying to shoot a tracking device in a car before it drives in a hidden tunnel. Meanwhile, NSA’s British version, GCHQ, did its level best to outdo its American counterpart’s ridiculous code names by trying to crack Tor with operations called Epicfail and Onionbreath.

Despite all their antics, the NSA’s success rate at identifying Tor users was spotty at best — but really, who knows what they have come up with since 2013?

6. GILGAMESH

It’s one thing for the NSA to want to know about people’s information, and completely another to use that information to find out your location and giving it to the Joint Security Operations Command in case they need to bomb someone. This explosive application of NSA tracking technology is called GILGAMESH, and it’s essentially what would happen if a bunch of NSA’s geolocation tracking technologies married a Predator drone.

Thanks to the vast array of online information available to them, the NSA has taken to recommending drone targets with complex metadata analysis instead of relying on human intelligence. However, the Intercept points out that while the tactic has had some success it has by no means been particularly accurate and reliable. One drone pilot operating with NSA-dictated targets has admitted it “absolutely” has resulted in innocent people getting killed.

5. Optic Nerve

To be fair, Optic Nerve was technically a brainchild of the British GCHQ, but since they NSA happily assisted in it, we’ll let it slide. It was a code-name for a surveillance program that surreptitiously collected a bunch of images from Yahoo’s webcam chats from all over the world by the million, with little to no regard whether the people they were collecting them from were persons of interest or not.  This might be pretty creepy in and of itself, but becomes doubly so when you remember the sort of stuff that tends to go on in webcam chats. Yes, we’re talking about nudity, and judging by the scale of the operation, there must have been plenty of it, too. In fact, leaked documents reveal that the GCHQ actually had some trouble keeping all the naked pictures away from the interested eyes of its employees, which in a way is even scarier than just stealing images in bulk.

Understandably, Yahoo was less than thrilled to find out about the situation, which they say happened only when the British media reached out to ask some questions. The company called Optic Nerve a “whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy,” and really, it’s hard to argue with them.

4. PRISM

PRISM is massive surveillance program that started in 2007 and came into light when the Washington Post and the Guardian whipped out a pile of leaked documents in 2013. Technically, PRISM was/is a system for monitoring foreign communication passing through American servers. However, in practice, they monitored everything they humanly could, and gathered their data from “providers” that you might be familiar with.

As of 2013, tiny little companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype and the like had to hand the NSA remarkable access to their servers, and the vast buckets of data from their users that lays within. NSA can use this giant pool of information to a terrifying accuracy, to the point where they could just directly access your — yes, specifically your — information and spy on every little thing you do online. The only caveat is that some analyst in their machinery has to vouch that they’re, like, 51% sure that you’re probably foreign, maybe.

3. Upstream

If you thought the NSA was happy just spying what you do on the internet, worry not — there’s more to come. Upstream is basically the same deal as PRISM, only with telecommunications companies such as Verizon and AT&T … and in a much more classic “spying” capacity. Where PRISM relies on intangible tech shenanigans of the “access to big company servers” variety, project Upstream has physically installed a host of surveillance equipment to the internet’s physical “backbone”: the routers, cables and other gear that carry all the online traffic.

The NSA uses this infiltration to track down specific keywords related to potential foreign intelligence activity, though even this noble-ish intent is rendered moot by the fact that they also often target the media, legal attorneys and human rights people instead of just supposed spies and suspected terrorists. The American Civil Rights Union has called the practice “unprecedented and unlawful.”

2. Bullrun

What good is stealing data from countless unwary people if you don’t know what to do with it? The NSA answered this question with code-name Bullrun, a state-of-the-art decryption program that can straight up decode the encryption used by several prominent providers, which means they can read your emails with the greatest of ease should the need arise. This powerful Sigint (signals intelligence) weapon is built by stealthily working with large tech companies to install weaknesses in their products, and then exploiting these openings with their own decryption tools. This way, the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ are able to browse through not only their targets’ emails, but banking accounts and medical history as well. Essentially, if you have personal information online, Bullrun can find out how to decrypt it.

Bullrun’s importance to the NSA can easily be seen by looking at its budget: When Edward Snowden brought the system out in the open in 2013, PRISM’s operating costs were around $20 million a year. Bullrun? Over $250 million.

1. FASCIA

The FASCIA database was among the more interesting documents Edwards Snowden leaked. It was a massive collection of metadata, consisting of all sorts of call information, IP addresses and suchlike. What made the project so impressive(ly scary) was its sheer scale: Though the document dates back to January 2004, it said that FASCIA II had over 85 billion metadata records, and an estimated 125 million were added on a daily basis. Leaked graphs (like the one above) indicate that the system has since evolved, and in 2012, FASCIA already received five billion device-location records every day. There’s no telling what that number is now, but smart money would probably say that it’s significantly larger.

The NSA started getting hold of all this metadata during the War on Terror by straight up forcing phone companies to hand it over to the agency. Originally, this data included pretty intimate stuff, such as the numbers you called and the duration of said calls, though not the actual content. In 2015, the process was slightly changed so that the NSA could only collect bulk metadata and looking at an individual person’s records would require a court order. Even so, the NSA has been known to call this system one of their “most useful tools,” and they say it has even helped them capture multiple terror suspects.


FYI NSA BTW –

WIF Invasion of Privacy

The NULL Solution = Episode 130

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The NULL Solution = Episode 130

…Alf Quigby produces t-shirts, collectible buttons and a monthly newsletter, all out his parent’s basement…

CHAPTER TWELVE

Facts and Other Fibs

 

Accounting for the best of intentions, the avoidance of truth is going to catch up to you. One thing leads to another, etc. and there you are, wishing that you would have found a way to clarify instead of classify.

Keeping the wool pulled over the world’s eye is tougher every year.

At NASA, it started with Lie #1.

Deke McKinney did not come back with his brother, like everybody who’s anybody claimed back in 2050. Granted, at the time the space agency was searching for an answer that was not available to them. The inept solution to that dilemma was to allow speculation to run wild. The wildest such rumor: he was considering a presidential bid. In the ensuing six years they still cannot produce a living, breathing Deke. Some nosy kid in Texas {below in Lie #2} called them out on it.

And the world knows {but then again they don’t} because beloved Prez Roy cannot tell the world that he is alive & living on a world 10 light years away; Too Much Information.

Lie #2 is a one of omission.

Joe/Josephine

Current events are nearly impossible to keep from prying eyes. Every “Joe/Josephine Human” on Earth has a video/still device at the ready. Competition to be the 1ST with news is fierce, to the point of neutering traditional reporting outlets. 9 times out of 10, a story goes viral before the next lungful is exhaled.

Previously obscure individuals are the superstars of news making/reportage.

A Houston-area teen named Alf {Alfred} Quigby has been obsessed with NASA operations for a longtime, which in his case are 3.5 of those perplexing adolescent years. He is president & founder of the Space Family McKinney Fan Club. He produces t-shirts, collectible buttons and a monthly newsletter, all out his parent’s basement. He has going-on 152 million followers of his fan club website, ranking him second only to the Taylor Swift tribute site, where millions mourn the passing of the music icon.

Alf Quigby

When no one else bothers to look, Alf notices that Gus McKinney has not been seen for months. If Gus McKinney, so much as, sneezes, he makes sure that the world hears about it. He has suspected that his hero was aboard that drone, which was towed by a SLAV that headed for space earlier in the year. Neither the man nor machine has yet to return to GLF.

Alf is the same kid who tried to expose the Deke McKinney ruse.

Since his last sensationalizing claim, in attempt to control the message, young Alf is hired as an intern in the office of Francine Bouchette-Crippen. His younger sister, Alfina, serves as interim webmaster & editor of Space Family McKinney Fan Club. Alfred still takes all the credit.

Coincidences and questions persist. Explanations are shallow.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 130


page 128

From The Desk of Gwendolyn Hoff

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From The Desk of

Gwendolyn Hoff

…If you are reading this post and you are one of the hundreds who have also been reading THE RETURN TRIP, I want to personally thank you for the privilege of sharing my very 1st book…  originally written in 1986…

And truth be told, I had to do mucho updating to make the book currently relevant. As I edited and posted and posted and edited, it was an absolute GAS adding in graphics, music and others’ photography and art into each & every Episode.

If you would bother to take the time and click thru the Episode Catalog – from 1 to The End – what a transformation from 100,000 words into a picture-book-potpourri-experience.

When I envisioned posting one of my books in this fashion (original & my way), I thought it would be a convenient way for readers to take in approx. 400 words/day and be entertained along the way… 10 minutes/day and off you go with life. Finding & keeping a repeatable format from episode to episode was important to me… every day it has that consistent, comfortable comportment.

It is also important that I properly credit each artist or photographer if I use their works to enhance the theme of the day’s post. So, if you click the link to the painting or photo, it may take you to THEIR or another website.

Like many of my “original” creations, it probably will not catch on. I am either to far ahead of my time OR better off doing this 30 years ago … or whenever the Internet hit town.

So as THE RETURN TRIP is in the can, so-to-speak, I proceed undaunted by dubious success. The NULL Solution will begin tomorrow 9/20/2017, virtually where the last book ended, as the saga of the Space Family McKinney soldiers on.

I hope that Sampson, Celeste & Co. have the depth of character necessary to make you want to care ABOUT them, as well as what happens TO them. They have been a part of my life for 30+ years and I am writing a 3rd book in the series (Chariot of Chaos) as I am penning this love letter to all of you.

-Gwenny


From The Desk

of Gwendolyn Hoff


 

English as a Language – WIF Fun Facts

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Fun Facts

About the

English Language

With so many languages bouncing around the globe, you would be forgiven for thinking English is just one of many. The following 10 entries look at how a once small language spoken by an island people is now used as a global lingua franca. If Latin had the Roman Empire, then English has the world.

 10. English is the Most Commonly Used Language in the Sciences

SCOPUS, the world’s largest database for peer-reviewed journals, contains 21, 000 articles from 239 countries. A 2012 study found that 80 percent were written entirely in English. That’s not all. For an article to gain entry to SCOPUS, a journal must include an English abstract – even if it is written in another language. This trend in the sciences shows no sign of stopping and in some cases, has even increased.

Most scientists know that research written in aforeign language will likely reach a limited audience. If research is to have a global impact, then it needs to be published in English. This means researchers need to have a level of proficiency which allows them to attend conferences, read research papers and hold discussions, all in English.

A monolingual English approach to science has its drawbacks. A BBC article concerning the stories of the indigenous tribes of Indonesia noted that as indigenous languages decline, it becomes increasingly difficult for scientists to access knowledge that could potentially be lost forever.

9. English in the Publishing World

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), an organization which provides statistics concerning global book publishing, 21.84% of all books published in the world are written in English. This figure is dwarfed compared to the number of periodicals released in English, which makes up a staggering 62.55% of all periodicals published. This seems impressive considering that English only takes second place for largest literate population in the world. The title is actually held by Mandarin Chinese, which boasts a literate population of 794,947,565 people, or 14.68% of the world. In comparison, English only has 572,977,034, representing a mere 10.58% of the world’s literate population.

It seems strange then, that only 4.85% of the world’s information resources are produced in Mandarin. In comparison, English sits comfortably producing 44.29% of global information. The nearest contender is German at 7.60%. The perception of English as a universal language alongside special programs which encourage English proficiency are most likely the reason English stays up on top.

8. English and the Internet

Is English’s dominance on the web coming to an end? It is safe to say that English was probably the first language used online. By the mid-1990s, 80% of the internet’s content was written in English. This is no longer the case, where competition with Chinese, French, German and Spanish has caused English’s presence on the net to shrink to around 30%. Chinese in particular, has expanded to fill this gap, growing by 1277.4% between 2000 and 2010. To keep this in perspective, out of around the 6,000 languages in use, the top ten most commonly used languages on the internet (English, Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, German, French, and Malaysian) make up 82% of all content.

English remains dominant with around 800 million users surfing the net, but Chinese stays close with 649 million and Spanish follows with 222 million users. Does it matter which language you speak online? It does when it comes to language inequality. There are huge information vacuums where other languages are left in the dark in favour of more popular ones. For example, Google searches in English return between four to five time more results than in Arabic. Not all languages are considered equal.

7. English is Not the Official Language of the United States

The Future – As Read in Fiction

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Books That Predicted

the Future

With Eerie Accuracy

When authors write about the future, they have to predict what technology and life might be like decades down the road. While the books are often written as a metaphor for their contemporary society, some authors have made amazingly accurate predictions about what modern life has actually become.

 These are all fiction books that, somehow, managed to predict the future. 

10. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? By Horace McCoy

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a relentlessly bleak book that was published in 1935. It’s about a young man named Robert who moves to Los Angeles to get into the film industry. When Robert tries to get work as an extra on a movie, he meets Gloria, a young woman who wants to be an actress. After failing to get jobs, they decide to join a dance marathon. The problem is that these marathons are death marches that can go on for weeks. The only breaks that the contestants get are 10 minute time-outs after an hour and fifty minutes of dancing. The couple that lasts the longest gets $1,000, and all the contestants are fed.

Throughout the contest, new gimmicks are added to liven up the marathon. Like at the end of the night, there’s a speed walk and the couple that comes in last is eliminated. Another twist that is added to the marathon is two contestants get married, and are saved from elimination. Other times, celebrities show up at the marathon for cameos.

Published in the mid-1930s, They Shoot Horses was written as a metaphor of the plight of people during the Great Depression. However, today it can be seen as a frightfully accurate precursor to reality TV shows.

In reality shows, people voluntarily do things that are physically and mentally grueling and/or humiliating, all for money and their 15 minutes of fame. Reality shows are also known for using gimmicks to make the show more exciting. Finally, celebrities of varying degrees of fame are known to pop up on all types of reality shows, from Big Brother toMasterChef.

The question is, is a grueling dance marathon any more dehumanizing than making someone eat something likehorse rectum or blended rats, like some contestants on Fear Factor had to do?

9. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest is a long and unwieldy book; the story is nearly a thousand pages and there are over 100 pages of footnotes. It’s believed that the book takes place around 2009, in an alternate timeline where the years aren’t numbered. Instead, they are sponsored by companies. For example, there is the Year of the Whopper and the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment.

Due to the scope of the book, the plot is impossible to summarize in a few sentences, but it’s mostly set at a tennis academy and a halfway house for addicts. Both are in Boston, which is part of the Organization of North American Nations, or O.N.A.N. In this reality, the United States forced Canada and Mexico to join America as one big super state.

There are several groups of characters in the book and some of those people are looking for a lost film called “Entertainment.” The film is supposedly so entertaining that if someone starts to watch it, they can’t stop. They will do nothing else but watch the film. This includes stopping eating and drinking, and eventually, they will die while watching it.

In many ways, Wallace’s novel predicted contemporary life fairly accurately. Most notably, he predicted the way people would consume media and their obsession with entertainment. In the book, people watch teleputers, which are combinations of televisions, phones, and computers. People can get movies and TV shows off the InterLace to watch whenever they want, and then they listen to their teleputers with white ear plugs.

Of course, all of those inventions are now commonplace, albeit not exactly the way that Wallace envisioned it. Teleputers sound a lot like smart phones, Wallace just didn’t predict that they would be mobile and fit in the palm of your hand, while the InterLace is a lot like Netflix. However, Wallace thought that a system like the Interlace would be the death of TV advertising. Finally, the earplugs are, of course, Apple’s earbuds.

Wallace also wrote about video phones, which had been predicted by many other writers before him, but Wallace had an interesting insight. In Infinite Jest, videophones were just a fad because people don’t like seeing themselves on the screen. In real life, there are many reasons people don’t use video chat as frequently as texting. One reason is that people don’t like seeing pictures of themselves.

Finally, Wallace predicted the rise of Donald Trump. In his book, the President is the loudest and brashest right wing sensationalist of the mid-1990s – Rush Limbaugh

8. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood’s End, by famed sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke, is about an invasion of Earth by a group of aliens called the Overlords. The Overlords aren’t violent, but they hide themselves from human eyes. Through a spokesperson at the United Nations, they say that they will reveal themselves to humankind in 50 years. 

During those 50 years, the Overlords improve life on Earth in many ways – ignorance, poverty, hunger, and disease are all things of the past. Of course, the Overlords also help advance human technology. One of those technologies was a type of virtual reality that is like a movie, but it is so realistic that you can’t tell the difference between the movie and real life. “The program,” as Clarke called it, would appeal to all the senses and would allow the person to be someone completely different from themselves, or even a plant. Why someone would want to be a plant is beyond us, but that isn’t the only head scratching prediction Clarke made.

He also predicted that in the early 2000s, people might watch TV for three hours a day. The only way someone would be able to watch all the programming would be to never sleep, as opposed to it being impossible.

So while Clarke didn’t foresee cable TV or YouTube, he did correctly predict video games and virtual reality. This is pretty impressive considering that when the book was published in 1953, televisions in homes were just becoming common.

7. The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth

In Phillip Roth’s 2004 book, The Plot Against America, a well-known celebrity gets into politics and starts to spew conspiracy theories about minorities. Finding his niche, the celebrity, with no political experience, panders to racists and anti-Semites. Surprisingly, he wins the nomination of the Republican Party and then goes on to win the presidency. As president, he aligns himself with a notorious and brutal world leader and this creates global tension and conflict. He also begins to persecute the minorities that he villainized in his campaign.

The Plot Against America takes place in an alternate timeline and it starts in 1940. The celebrity who is running for president is Charles Lindbergh, who uses a platform rife with anti-Semitism to become president. After he’s elected, the world leader that Lindbergh associates himself with is Adolf Hitler.

Of course, the parallels in Roth’s book to real life should be obvious to anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in 2016. But if you were in a coma or something, let us fill you in. Celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump ran for the Republican ticket with no political experience. His platform included racist conspiracy theories and he spoutedoffensive rhetoric about minorities. He found popularity among white nationalists and people who were anti-immigration and then shamelessly pandered to them. Amazingly, he not only won the Republican nomination, but he went on to win the presidency.

So far, as president, Trump has alienated several of America’s allies, but talks glowingly about Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has a horrendous record of human rights violations, which includes state-sponsored human trafficking.

The final similarity between President Trump and President Lindbergh is that after Trump became President, he started to persecute those he villainized in his campaign,specifically Muslims and undocumented immigrants.

6. Neuromancer by William Gibson

William Gibson’s 1984 novel, Neuromancer, not only gave birth to the cyberpunk genre, but it also predicted cyberspace and the internet.

The book follows Case, a former computer hacker and drug addict. Before the book starts, Case was fired from his job and his central nervous system was poisoned, so he couldn’t “jack in” to cyberspace, which is called “the matrix.” Millions of people can jack into the matrix, which is a 3D virtual world that appeals to all the senses. One day, Case meets a mysterious employer who says he will help Case get back into the matrix, but in exchange, Case has to complete an incredibly difficult hack.

In 1984, there was an internet, but only a handful of universities used it. Gibson foresaw that it would eventually connect millions of computers. Of course, the internet isn’t as immersive as the matrix Gibson predicted (yet) but he did predict the rise of technological addiction and people’s need to be online.

5. Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut’s debut novel, Player Piano, was published in 1952, and it takes place in the near future, 10 years after the Third World War. Since people were needed to fight the war, factories were designed to be more autonomous. Also, the stock market is controlled by a computer that tells the factories how many products the world needs. Unfortunately, this automation leads to massive unemployment. Only managers and engineers, who have doctorates, are employed and everyone else can either join the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps, where they do meaningless work like fill potholes, or they can join the army. However, being in the army has kind of lost its meaning as well, because there is nothing to fight for. Essentially, Player Piano is about how automation could make life purposeless for many people.

Of course, we are a long way from the world of Player Piano, but Vonnegut did correctly predict the rise of automation in society, and that it would cause people to lose their jobs. Many people have blamed these job losses on China, or immigrants, but that isn’t exactly the case. Since 2000, America has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs, but American manufacturing output has increased during that time; meaning the jobs are being lost to computers and robots, not to other countries or people.

We’re seeing automation take over jobs more and more every day. Just a few examples include with self-checkout lanes at the grocery store or McDonald’s automated menus. In the future, more jobs are expected to be lost to automation. Drones are already being tested for deliveries by companies like Amazon. Notably, by 2020, self-driving cars are expected to be the norm and this will eliminate all driving jobs. It is expected to get so bad that, over the next 20 years in a country like Canada, four out of 10 jobs will be lost to automation.

So what do you want to do? Join the army or the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps?

4. Earth by David Brin

David Brin is best known for writing the book The Postman, which was made into one of Kevin Costner’s worst movies (and that is saying something). In 1989, Brin published the novel Earth, which takes place in the year 2038. While the novel does have a plot, the book is more or less Brin’s predictions about the future. If you’re curious what the plot is, it’s that an artificial black hole has fallen into the Earth’s core. Scientists have a year to fix it, or the Earth may be destroyed.

The book has a large cast of characters and through these characters, Brin explores what life might be like in the future. Currently, there is a website that keeps track of his predictions, and there are 14 predictions confirmed to have come true and another eight that are likely.

Some of the predictions that Brin did get right are global warming, rising sea levels, and the breaking of the levees on the Mississippi River. Another natural disaster that is postulated in the book that came true was the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.

In 1990, people knew about the internet, but Brin accurately predicted the World Wide Web that was invented by Tim Berners-Lee a year after the book was published. On the “net,” as Brin calls it, there are pages full of hyperlinks. Brin also thought that the net would be used by major news outlets and citizen reporters, along with everyday people who wanted to express themselves. Finally, he also foresaw spam and Trojan horse viruses.

At the time of this list, Brin still has about 21 years to be proven right on the rest of his predictions. So far, only one prediction from his book has been disproven. In Earth, the characters haven’t discovered any Earth-like planets and they didn’t think they would be found any time soon. In reality, we have found several Earth-like planets that are in habitable zones around their star. The first was Kepler-186f; its discovery was announced by NASA in 2014.

3. The World Set Free by H.G. Wells

In The World Set Free, H.G. Wells predicted atomic bombs, even going as far to use the term “atomic bomb” in his book. His bombs are uranium-based and they are about the size of an orange. The explosion is caused by the splitting of atoms and after the explosion, there is corrosive radiation left over. What is so impressive about this is that Wells wrote the book in 1913, 32 years before the first nuclear bomb was tested.

The World Set Free also has an interesting role in the technology it predicted – it helpedinspire its invention.

In 1932, English scientists had successfully split an atom through artificial means and the experiment didn’t show any evidence that splitting an atom would cause a huge release of energy. Later that year, Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard read The World Set Free and thought that Wells was correct. Splitting an atom would probably release a lot of energy; the question was how to split the atom. A year later, he had a eureka moment. Szilard said, “It suddenly occurred to me that if we could find an element which is split by neutrons and which would emit two neutrons when it absorbed one neutron, such an element, if assembled in sufficiently large mass, could sustain a nuclear chain reaction.”

Szilard patented the idea in 1933, but he was disturbed by The World Set Free. He didn’t want the patent to become public because it might fall into the wrong hands. Something else that worried him was the rise of Nazism. So in 1939, he drafted the letter that was sent by Albert Einstein to Franklin Roosevelt, saying that Germany was stockpiling uranium. This letter, in turn, gave birth to the Manhattan Project. Szilard and some British scientists worked with the Americans, and this eventually led to the first nuclear bombs. Two of those bombs were dropped on Japan in August 1945 at the tail end of World War II.

Wells died in 1946, after having seen the weapon that he warned against used on civilians in a war.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Yeah, you knew this one was coming.

Published in 1935, Brave New World takes place in the year 632 A.F., which is actually 2540 A.D. (A.F. stands for After Ford, as in the industrialist Henry Ford). In the future, babies are born in labs, meaning the family unit is dead. When they are children, they are told in whispers while they sleep to buy things and to love consumer products. When they are older, the state demands that they be sexually promiscuous, and women wear their birth control on their belts. No one has any real worries about life because mood enhancing drugs are widely available and its usage is encouraged.

Of course, contemporary society isn’t quite to the point of Brave New World, but in all fairness to its author, Aldous Huxley, we still have over 520 years to go. However, he did accurately depict several aspects of contemporary culture, including our consumerist-heavy society. He also predicted antidepressants and their prevalence in modern society.

What’s interesting about Brave New World‘s relationship to contemporary society, is that in 1985, writer and media critic Neil Postman published the non-fiction book Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the book, Postman accurately predicts the rise of a candidate like Donald Trump and the prevalence of fake news in society. In the introduction of the book, Postman explains that he got the idea in 1984, when he was participating in a panel on parallels between George Orwell’s 1984 and real life in 1984.

What Postman realized is that modern life is becoming more like Brave New World than1984. Postman wrote:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that therewould be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.”

Essentially, what Postman says Huxley was warning us against is the dangers of beingoppressed by our own amusement; meaning we use endless streams of entertainment to distract ourselves and fail to engage with real life.

1. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Stand on Zanzibar is probably the least well known book on the list, but it is the most accurate prediction of what life would be like in the future. 

The book, which was written in 1968, follows a large cast of characters, but many chapters are backstory and information about the world of 2010. According to the website The Millions, there are at least 17 amazingly accurate predictions that Brunner makes about 2010 in Stand on Zanzibar.

In the book, a major problem in society is that individuals are committing random acts of violence, often at schools. Terrorists also threaten American interests and attack American buildings. Between 1960 and 2010, Brunner predicted that prices would increase six fold because of inflation; it actually increased sevenfold. America’s biggest rival is China, and not the Soviet Union. It’s also a different dynamic because instead of warfare or a weapons race, the competition is seen in economics, trade, and technology. 

As for the rest of the world, the countries of Europe have formed into one union. Britain is part of it, but they tend to side with the United States, while the other European countries are critical of American actions. Africa is behind the rest of the world, while Israel’s existence is still a source of tension in the Middle East.

When it comes to the lives of everyday people, marriage still happens but young people prefer to have short-term relationships instead of committing to someone long-term. Society is also much more liberal. Homosexuality and bisexuality is accepted. Black people are in a better position in society, but racial tension is still prevalent.

When it comes to technology, Brin predicted that cars would run on electric fuel cells. Honda and General Motors are the two biggest manufacturers. And even though General Motors is a Detroit based company, Detroit is a rundown ghost town, but they have a unique techno music scene, which really did emerge in the 1990s.

TV channels are played all over the world thanks to satellites and the TV system allows people to watch shows on their own schedule. Inflight entertainment on planes is in the back of the seats and they feature videos and news. Also, in the book the characters can phone each other on video screens, but instead of a picture of themselves, they use avatars, which can look like the caller or someone completely different. There are also laser printers, which print documents.

Pharmaceuticals are used to help sexual performance, and they are advertised. Due to a societal and political backlash, tobacco has been marginalized and marijuana has become decriminalized. Finally, the President of the United States is President Obomi, which is an amazing fluke or actual evidence that Brunner somehow saw or experienced 2010.

In all, Stand on Zanzibar is a pretty remarkable vision of the future. Unfortunately, the author, John Brunner, did not get to see many of his predictions come true – he died in 1995 at the age of 60.


The Future

– As Read in Fiction

Facebook Turns 13 – WIF Facts and Figures

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Facts About

Facebook

Facebook was launched on February 4, 2004 as TheFacebook.com by Mark Zuckerberg, who was studying psychology at Harvard at the time. 24 hours later,1,200 students at Harvard had registered and then within a month, over half of the undergraduate students were signed up.

 From there, Facebook expanded to other universities throughout the United States and in August 2005, they became Facebook.com, after purchasing the domain for $200,000.

In September 2005, high school students in the United States could sign up, and then it moved overseas to universities in the United Kingdom in October. After originally only being available to people with a “.edu” email account, Facebook finally started to allow anyone with any email address to sign up in September 2006. Since then, it’s grown to be an indelible part of world culture, to the point where the point where rumors persist that Zuckerberg may eventually run for president. Yes, of the United States.

Of course, things didn’t exactly go smoothly for Zuckerberg and Facebook, but there is a whole movie dedicated to their problems. These are 10 facts about Facebook that you won’t find in The Social Network.

10. Crazy Language Settings

If someone leaves their Facebook open and you want to prank them, don’t pose as them and post something stupid on their wall, because that could lead to some unintended problems. Instead, we recommend changing their language settings.

For people who speak English, there are two fun options that allows the person to use Facebook as normal, but things will seem a bit… off.

The first is the Pirate setting, which it changes things around to be more of a pirate theme. Duh. For example, your wall is called the Captain’s Log, the post box asks “What’s troublin’ ye?” and the smiley emoji says “Yo ho ho,” while the shocked face is “Shiver Me Timbers.”

However, if that prank is a bit too lighthearted and you really want to mess with someone, there is another language setting that turns all the text upside down. We tried it, and it can make you dizzy.

To change the languages, go to Settings, Language, and then “What language do you want to use Facebook in?” And you’re all set.

9. The Most Popular People on Facebook

The most popular person on Facebook is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the star player of Real Madrid. But since he’s so popular, we figure you already knew that.

Ronaldo also became the first athlete to break 100 million likes, and he is currently at 119.57 million likes. In second place is Colombian pop singer Shakira, who has 104.49 likes, then in third it’s the bald headed star of The Fast and the Furious series. Oh wait, you say that nearly all the male stars of The Fast and the Furious are bald? Well, it’s Vin Diesel. He has 101.22 million likes.

8. Someone Will Always Have More Friends Than You

Do you ever get the feeling that your Facebook friends have more friends than you? Well, according to statistics, nearly everybody has a friend who has more friends than themselves.

The reason everyone has a friend who has more friends is because of a strange thing that happens in statistics called the Friendship Paradox. How it works: let’s say you have a small amount of Facebook friends. You’re bound to have at least one friend who is popular, because people with lots of friends are more likely to be your friend. Secondly, popular people are misrepresented when it comes to averages. By being popular, they spread themselves out when it comes to averages, and this effects probability.

While this concept might be a little hard to wrap your head around, you can check it yourself by seeing if any of your Facebook friends have more friends than you. Except you, Larry. We both know it’d be a waste of your time to check, because we already know the answer, don’t we.

7. The Yellow Facebook

One thing that made Facebook different from MySpace and other social media sites at the time was its uniformity. Everyone’s Facebook page layout was similar, and you couldn’t change the coding on it to add media, like music or pictures, which you could on MySpace. That uniformity is still prevalent today and everyone has very similar looking Facebook layouts. Well, nearly everyone.

The employees of Facebook have a more advanced version of the application that has a yellow icon instead of Facebook’s famous blue color. Mark Zuckerberg gave people a glimpse at the employee version in 2016, when he announced that live video streaming was heading to Facebook. In the video, Zuckerberg shows some features that have yet to be added, like being able to post slideshows and music from their music service. However, Zuckerberg said that some of the features on the yellow Facebook may never be made public.

Besides that video, not a whole lot is known about the yellow Facebook, but it is thought that it’s used by the upper echelon of Facebook to test new features.

6. Facebook Friends

According to a study from Oxford University, the average amount of friends a Facebook user has is 155. The same study, which looked at a group of 3,300 students, also found that they only had four real friends.

Why people have so many Facebook friends, but very few real, close friends, is explained by Dr. Robin Dunbar, who authored the study. He said:

“Social media certainly helps to slow down the natural rate of decay in relationship quality that would set in once we cannot readily meet friends face-to-face but no amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time.”

These findings are consistent with other studies on close friendships, like an American study from 2011 that found that people, on average, only have two close friends. Another study from Dunbar found that, on average, people know up to 150 people, but they are only intimate with 15, and only five of those 15 are trustworthy.

5. It Can Wreak Havoc on Your Romantic Relationship

Saying that things that happen on Facebook can wreak havoc on your real life shouldn’t be a surprise. Perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself, or you may have witnessed it happen to one of your friends on your news feed. If you haven’t, humor websites have massive collections of them.

Besides anecdotal evidence, there are studies that show that Facebook can add more stress to a romantic relationship. One study that was conducted on 2,000 married people in Britain found that one-in-seven had thought about divorcebecause of something that happened on Facebook. In another British study, a quarter of the people surveyed said Facebook led to a fight once a week with their romantic partner, and 17 percent said a fight happened every day because of Facebook.

Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2010, divorce courts in the United States saw a dramatic increase in Facebook being used as evidence. Finally, a study from the Loyola University Health System found that 20 percent of all cases cited problems stemming from Facebook as part of the reason for divorce.

4. MySpace Had Two Chances to Buy Facebook

In the mid 2000s, the monster of social media was MySpace. Facebook was started essentially as an imitator; it was just better organized and more uniform, and at the time, it was more exclusive because you needed to have a university email address to get an account. These two aspects proved to be popular and Facebook started to gain a lot of traction. As they started to amass users, MySpace had the opportunity to buy Facebook… twice.

In the spring of 2005, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe visited Zuckerberg and company. At the meeting, Zuckerberg offered to sell him Facebook for $75 million and DeWolfe turned him down. They met again later in 2005, and this time Zuckerberg wanted 10 times his original offer, $750 million. DeWolfe turned Zuckerberg down again.

Just two years later, Microsoft purchased 1.6% of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a $15 billion valuation. By 2009, Facebook was getting twice as many visitors as MySpace. Today, well, Facebook is the thing that everyone uses and MySpace is something you have to Google to see if it’s still online (it is).

At the time of this posting, Facebook market capitalization is over $400 billion and some people think it could grow to be worth a trillion dollars in the next few years.

3. What Happens to Your Facebook When You Die?

Before 2015, when someone died, their family could contact Facebook with proof, like a death certificate, and request that the deceased’s Facebook profile be memorialized.

Memorializing the profile removed the deceased from public searches and notifications, like for their birthdays. Their memorialized profile could also only be viewed by people who were Facebook friends with the deceased before it was memorialized. Nothing else could be done with the account and some people found this upsetting. A notable example was Hollie Gazzard, who lived in Gloucester, United Kingdom. She was stabbed to death by her boyfriend Asher Maslin in February 2014. Her family had her Facebook memorialized and this included memorializing pictures of Gazzard and her murderer. Obviously, the family was upset by this and repeatedly asked Facebook to remove the pictures. For months, Facebook refused to take the pictures down and finally only removed them because of copyright infringements.

This type of dilemma prompted Facebook to allow users to pick a “legacy contact.” The legacy contact is able to pin a notice to your wall with information like funeral services. It also allows the contact to respond to new friend requests, change your cover and profile photos, and archive your Facebook posts and photos. The one thing that the legacy contact will not be able to do is read your private messages. So don’t worry about your loved ones finding Facebook messages expressing your profound love for Nickelback after you pass away.

To add a legacy contact, go to your security settings and it should be there. When you set the legacy contact, it will send a message, which you can edit, to the friend with information about the policy.

2. Every Minute Facebook Goes Down Costs Them $52,583

One of Facebook’s best qualities is that it is reliable. When was the last time you remember Facebook not being available when you tried logging on? It’s so rare that when Facebook went down in 2014, people called 9-1-1.

When it did go down in 2014, The Atlantic figured out how much money Facebook lost per minute by looking at their profits. They concluded that every minute the site was down, it cost them $24,420. This is over $1.4 million an hour and over $35.1 million a day.

But that was three years ago. Since then, Facebook’s revenues have gone up and in 2016, they made $27.638 billion. If the crash were to happen in early 2017, it would cost them $52,583 a minute, which is $3.1 million an hour and $75 million a day.

1. Everyone is Connected by 3.57 People

The theory of six degrees of separation was put forth in 1929 by Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, in his 1929 short story “Chains.” In the story, the characters came up with a game, where:

“We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth – anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”

There have been several attempts to prove the theory over the years, including one by famed psychologist Stanley Milgram, and all the tests have resulted in varying degrees of success. The jury is still out on whether or not we’re connected to Kevin Bacon, as well.

In 2016, on its 12th anniversary, Facebook released some data that shows that everyone on Facebook is separated by 3.57 degrees. This, however, does not pertain to the real world, and it is just the world of Facebook. That being said, even if someone doesn’t use Facebook, they just have to know a Facebook user to be connected with the rest of the world. And really, there are good odds nearly everyone on the planet knows someone who uses Facebook. As of April 2017, Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users; that is almost a quarter of the entire population of the world.


Facebook Turns 13

– WIF Facts and Figures

Double Takes – WIF Photography

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Photographs

That’ll Make

You Look Twice

You know the famous idiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” For the most part, it’s true. But those thousand words we make up for ourselves can be completely off if we don’t have the right backstory or any context in which that photo was taken. So, with that in mind, we’re going to show you some photos here that are pieces of history in their own right, and we’ll also give you the circumstances in which they were taken. The rest you’ll have to fill in for yourselves… but only within a thousand words, right?

 10. Arnold Schwarzenegger Walking Down a Munich Street – 1967

This particular photo was taken back in 1967 in downtown Munich, Germany. Nothing out of the ordinary in this particular description so far, but as we can all see here, Arnold was wearing only a Speedo, and nothing else. And by the look of those people in the background and the ladies wearing scarves around him, this wasn’t a common sight in Munich back 1967. Heck, it probably isn’t one today, either. He was 20 years old when this photo was taken, and given his physique, nobody was really complaining even back then.

By this time, he already won several bodybuilding contests and titles, including the Mr. Universe. He was the youngest participant ever to do so. During his time in Munich in 1967, he was training six hours per day, attending business school, and promoting his own gym he acquired that same year. In fact, this was exactly what he was doing here in this photo – promoting his gym and the benefits of bodybuilding.

9. Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress – 1954

This photo will definitely make you look twice, regardless of whether you know the whole story behind it or not. But even if that’s the case, let’s, nevertheless, talk a bit about it. This iconic moment in cinematic history was captured back in 1954, during the filming of the Seven Year Itch, a movie that came out one year later. The scene was filmed and photographed at 1:00 a.m. in New York City at the corner of Lexington Ave and 52nd Street and took 14 takes and about three hours to finish. But because of the 100 photographers and roughly 4,000 onlookers who were, let’s say, reacting every time her dress was lifted by the soft, upward breeze, they had to re-shoot it in California. But to be fair, she prepared herself accordingly by wearing two pairs of white underwear.

Nevertheless, this scene almost certainly cost Monroe her marriage to baseball star Joe DiMaggio, who viewed it as an “exhibitionist” scene. Two weeks later, and following a fight at their hotel room after the filming, Marilyn filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. The late Debbie Reynolds, a fellow actress, singer, and businesswoman (not to mention Carrie Fisher’s mother), bought the dress for $200back in 1971. In 2011, she sold it for a whopping $4.6 million.

8. The Guatemala City Sinkhole – 2010

The sudden appearance of this gaping hole in the middle of a street in Guatemala City is still largely a mystery. Its almost perfect cylindrical shape does make it seem to be man-made, and done intentionally no less, but it isn’t, even though human causes may have contributed here. Sam Bonis, a geologist at Dartmouth College who is living in Guatemala City, does have a theory about what happened. The 60 feet (18 meters) wide and 300 feet (100 meters) deep hole was caused, it seems, by leaking pipes. Yes, this is true. This is what happens if you leave the water running, apparently. Bonis believes that the city’s poor infrastructure and leaking pipelines have eroded the soil underneath over an extended period of time and in 2010, with the arrival of the severe tropical storm Agatha, the ground finally gave in and collapsed, forming that huge chasm.

But before you start calling a plumber to come and investigate your pipes, you should also know that the ground’s composition also had something to do with what happened here. As it turns out, Guatemala City is located in a somewhat volcanic region and the soil underneath is made out of pumice – a very porous and light volcanic material. Normally, over long periods of time, this pumice is turned into hard stone. But this time, however, the city was built before this was allowed to happen and the soil beneath is quite brittle. Combined with seeping water, over time one such sinkhole can happen. What’s funny about this is that this exact phenomenon doesn’t really have a name of its own. Since it’s partly man-made, Bonis says it should actually be called a piping feature and not a sinkhole, per se. This is because a sinkhole is entirely natural, and this one is not.

7. China’s Rainbow Mountains

The Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park is China’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon. And even though it isn’t as huge, it definitely has its charm – as can be seen in this photo. It’s a geologic marvel, to say the least, and a jewel given to us by Mother Nature. The layer upon layer of color tells the history of Planet Earth in the most amazing way possible. The story behind this colorful mountain range goes back for many millions of years. Over time, layer upon layer of stone and minerals were deposited, but then, some 50 million years ago, India slammed into Asia. Pushing ever further at a speed of 27 feet per century, it was able to form the mighty Himalayas, as well as these mountains. Each differently-colored layer speaks to another period in Earth’s history.

Interestingly enough, these rainbow mountains weren’t always as popular as they are now. They were first mapped back in the 1930s, and only after the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site did more people began to learn about its existence. There are some other somewhat similar places in other parts of the world, like the United States or Peru. But none of those are so striking as these rainbow mountains in China.

6. Picture, or Painting? – 2011

It’s not so easy to tell whether this is a photograph or a painting, right? Now, it does resemble a somewhat alien and surreal painting, with the trees looking almost like silhouettes and the color contrasts faintly resembling something by Edvard Munch. But no, it’s a real picture taken by photographer Frans Lanting while on an assignment by National Geographic to Namibia. The photo was taken in the early morning, just as the sun was rising over the horizon and flooding the orange sand dune in the backdrop. The barren ground in front is still under the partial cover of darkness, having a slightly bluish tint, reflecting the sky above.

Back in 2011, Lanting was in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in a region called Sossusvlei. This is the largest conservation area in Africa and Namibia’s most sensational landmark. The sand dune in the background is known as Big Daddy, so yes, and it’s the largest in the area, measuring 1,066 feet (325 meters) in height. Though not the largest in the Namib Desert, it nevertheless dominates the surrounding area.

5. Two (or More) Heads are Better Than One – 1895

Severed human heads always have the capacity of drawing people’s attention, right? Here we have a huge collection of mokomokai, or tattooed Maori heads, and the man sitting with them is Major-General Horatio Gordon Robley. He was a British officer who was stationed in New Zealand during the New Zealand Wars, during the second half of the 19th century. As an artist and as an antiques collector, he became fascinated with Maori tattoos and these mokomokai. After the wars, the art and tradition of these tattooed heads disappeared among the Maori people of the islands, but before the arrival of the Europeans, these denoted a high social status. Now, even though predominantly males wore these tattoos on their entire faces,women of prominence had them on their lips and chin. These symbolized the wearer’s connection with the ancestors.

General Robley was also an illustrator and wrote a book called Maori Tattooing, published one year after this photo was taken. During his stay in New Zealand, he collected these mokomokai. Later, he decided to sell them back to New Zealand for £1,000, but he was refused. He later sold them to the Natural History Museum in New York for 250 pounds more. The heads themselves went through an entire process of boiling, steaming, smoking, drying, and embalming before they were preserved. They were usually kept by the families and brought out during sacred ceremonies. The mokomokai belonging to enemy chiefs were also taken as spoils of war. After a peace was brokered between two tribes, these heads were exchanged as a sign of good will.

4. The Kiss – 1979

We could’ve gone with the kiss scene from Gone with the Wind, the sailor and nurse in Times Square, or even the kiss between Britney Spears and Madonna, but no –we chose this one. It’s not every day you see two old ‘geezers’ kissing, let alone two Soviet-era leaders from the Cold War period. The man on the left is Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union, while the man on the right is President Erich Honecker of East Germany. The photo was taken in 1979, during the 30th anniversary of the Soviet German Republic. Now, in its proper context, the kiss itself is not so out of the ordinary. Known as the socialist fraternal kiss this was a customary greeting between socialist leaders from the former soviet bloc. It stemmed from the old East European tradition of cheek kissing between family and friends, which itself can be associated with the East Orthodox Easter Kiss.

So, the kiss wasn’t so shocking in and of itself. What was shocking, however, was the enthusiasm shown between the two the moment they locked lips. The photo was taken by Regis Bossu and when it was published it quickly made it around the world. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall went down, former Soviet artist, Dmitri Vrubel, decided to paint it. The painting still exists in Berlin as part of the East Side Gallery. The caption running underneath it says: “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.”

3. The Eyes of Madness – 1916

Whoever says that war is cool or glorious obviously has no idea what they’re talking about. This photograph was taken back in 1916, during WWI, and this man’s look is the living embodiment of war and what it actually stands for. That is the look of one’s reality made nightmare. This British soldier was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or shell shock, as it was called back then. Massive artillery fire was introduced during this time – weapons so powerful and devastating that they denied any chance of courage, heroism, or skill in battle, bringing only constant pummeling and misery. This was no longer an adversary one could see or even face head on – it was perpetual death raining from the sky, and there was absolutely nothing one could do about it. As writer and lecturer Adam Hochschild describes it:“Simply put, after even the most obedient soldier had enough shells rain down on him, without any means of fighting back, he often lost all self-control.”

Shell shock presented itself with a wide variety of symptoms like crippling fatigue, confusion, uncontrollable tremors, constant nightmares, impaired vision and hearing, hysterical paralysis, as well as the inability to reason, among others. But for the better part of the war, this horrific mental disorder went unrecognized and countless shell shock sufferers were convicted of cowardice or desertion and then executed. Only after officially recognizing it as an actual disease did the British government pardon those who were put to death.

2. The Guardian Angels of NYC – 1980

The New York subway scene was not pretty during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Acts of vandalism, robberies, and even shootings became widespread, and taking the underground became a serious risk for daily commuters. This came at a time when the NYPD was completely overwhelmed and some citizens took it upon themselves to make their lives and the lives of their fellow New Yorkers a little bit safer. This is civic duty in action, and it’s never more beautiful or powerful than in periods of hardship. Led by Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels, as they came to be known, were a group of young men who had to deal with the crime-related problems in their own neighborhoods, and who were now looking to make the city a safer place to live.

Over 500 members joined, all wearing their emblematic red berets, leather jackets, or white t-shirts with the Guardian Angels logo on them. Though their numbers weren’t nearly enough to successfully tackle the rampant crimes happening in New York at the time, they were, nevertheless, a comforting presence for any late night subway commuter. Bruce Davidson, the man who took this photo, describes his feelings and general atmosphere of taking the city’s subway in the early ’80s:

“As I went down the subway stairs, through the turnstile, and on to the darkened station platform, a sense of fear gripped me. I grew alert, and looked around to see who might be standing by, waiting to attack. The subway was dangerous at any time of the day or night … Passengers on the platform looked at me, with my expensive camera around my neck, in a way that made me feel like a tourist – or a deranged person.”

1. The Rockefeller Salute – 1976

This is Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, flipping off a group of protesters back in 1976. When this photo was taken, Rockefeller was on a campaign tour through upstate New York, alongside Senator Bob Dole, President Gerald Ford’s running mate for that election. So, after a group of SUNY students from Binghamton showed him the finger, he responded in kind. That’s Dole in the background there, smiling at the exchange. As you can imagine, this gesture of “political maturity” was not received kindly by the media and the country’s citizens, who then started referring to it as The Rockefeller Salute. When confronted about his outburst, Rockefeller refused to apologize by cleverly avoiding the point that his apology was actually meant for the general public, and not just the students themselves.

As governor of New York, Rockefeller was constantly attacked throughout his political career. His fellow Republicans saw him as too liberal, while the Democrats viewed him simply as a Republican. In fact, during this time, all liberal Republicans were called “Rockefeller Republicans.”


Double Takes

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– WIF Photography