News Media And Terrorism: Verify First!

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 20, 2016 in News & Opinion |

Yesterday evening a large lorry drove into a crowd of Christmas market visitors in Bremen. Latest reports say that twelve people died and about fifty were injured. I followed the news live on Twitter, and especially the news coming from those people so far away from the course of events that they could have no idea of what was actually happening, could only speculate. This is how fake news gets out, through those people who only wish to push up their circulation, get clicks on their web sites and claim an exclusive story.

It went so far that Donald Trump sent out another misguided Tweet about terrorists, and that politically and socially blind English idiot Nigel Farage – not content with lying to his own country and bringing it to the brink of disaster – began throwing accusations about. Countless journalists began reporting things which the Berlin police had not said, as if they were facts, shouting out about a terrorist act being confirmed, when the official version, from police and government, was that a terrorist action could not be ruled out.

And then we had the reports from some less than clear-sighted reporters that the whole thing had been cleared up and the guilty person arrested in Berlin’s Tiergarten. Judge and jury, as far as some were concerned, had sat, brought their evidence, and convicted without the suspect even coming before them, without him even being questioned by the police, and most certainly without a shred of proof.

Terrorism Unverified

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Stuart Millar

I gave up sending out Tweets last night, telling people to check their sources, to wait until official confirmation came out, not to jump the gun with their wild speculation. I can’t expect any of these professional people to listen to someone like me, even though I am here and probably thousands of miles closer than they will ever be. I can’t expect them to follow their own demands that sources are required, that facts should be verified before writing and publishing. They sense a story – even a false one – and are like vampire bats on an open wound. No checking, no verification, just write and publish, the truth be damned.

So today we see the one suspect being released as there is no evidence to hold him. The furore over a twenty-three year old asylum-seeker from Pakistan as being the terrorist is out of the window for the time being, and there should be many, many red faces and humble apologies on the Internet right now.

Dear Journalists: if you’re going to claim that fake news must be fought and good journalism requires expertise and fact checking, live up to it, do it yourselves rather than just blowing out hot air and accusing everyone else of not doing their job or of misleading the public. It’s better to have the right story, with all the facts verified than an exclusive based on speculation which doesn’t hold water five minutes after it’s been published.

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Where A Typo Shouldn’t Be

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 19, 2016 in Internet |

A few days ago we saw a whole mess of Twitter comments, and newspaper reports, about a typo from Donald Trump. In a less-than-well-thought-out Tweet he used the (non) word unpresidented rather than the (real) word unprecedented when blowing hot air about China intercepting a drone in international waters. I wrote about it here and, to all intents and purposes that would have been the end of it for me. Until I came across this wonderful example of a typo which should never have happened – and has since been corrected – and which will cause absolutely no waves in tea cups whatsoever.

WikiLeaks Typo

Screenshot Source: Twitter / WikiLeaks

Whoever writes the Tweets for the partisan revelation platform WikiLeaks made a big point of highlighting sections of the document they reproduced for all to read, but clearly didn’t bother reading it him or herself. The very well-known term Pied Piper didn’t manage to make it into their mind and was replaced by the inexplicable Piper Piper, as if that made any sense.

I wonder how many of the nearly one thousand people who retweeted it noticed, or even bothered to read the document. And much the same for the additional one thousand two hundred¬† who marked the Tweet as a favorite. Will we see the press and others jumping all over WikiLeaks now for their mistake? I sincerely doubt it: WikiLeaks is relatively insignificant for many, if not most, people. They get their fodder from elsewhere, and only look for mistakes in those who are easiest to attack. And, let’s be honest, the Donald is – and many other politicians, world leaders, business executives and so on are – an easy target, whether rightfully or not.

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How To Disappear On The Internet

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 18, 2016 in Internet |

I read an article on how to remove yourself from the Internet today which, at the start, gave the impression that deleting everything about yourself on the Internet is remarkably easy, and only takes a few clicks of the mouse to achieve. Further on in the article, it became clear that this is not the case, the removing your footprint from the Internet is a long, almost impossible task hardly worth pursuing. There are a few businesses which apparently offer this service, but they are expensive and cannot guarantee complete obliteration. Not even going through all the instances that you have registered yourself for something on the Internet and then deleting them can completely remove you. There are some sites which keep your information no matter what you wish, no matter what they promise.

There is, however, another way to not quite remove yourself from the Internet, but to move yourself within the Internet and become lost. And there are some services which help you with this, for free.

Internet Disappearance

Screenshot Source: Mailfriends / Google

Simply entering information into the standard data fields on various web sites which insist on knowing all about you, for no good reason other than to sell your information or target advertising, is a good start, providing you are not planning on doing anything illegal on the site. My above example shows how the entering of information, which is essentially correct, in the wrong order has caused Google Maps to help, inadvertently, by moving Dortmund in Germany to somewhere near Milton Keynes in England. Having a throwaway mail account simply for confirming your membership – and handling the constant rubbish mail that some sites insist on sending you – with misleading location information is also good. Choosing usernames which have no relation to your real name, but could still be real, and employing different spellings for each web site helps too.

Deleting yourself from the Internet is practically impossible. Once you’ve started with Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or even using Google as your search engine of choice, you’re in there for good. Information is recorded and kept, shares are made, there are conversations and interactions. Twitter is even archived by the Library of Congress. But a few simple, and fairly obvious, tricks employed along the way can remove the link between various Internet profiles and the real person in the real world.

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When A Typo Makes A Difference

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 17, 2016 in Immoral Conversations |

You’ll have caught it in the news sometime recently, the hack on the DNCs mail server, and on Hillary Clinton herself, was caused by a typo. Instead of writing illegitimate someone wrote legitimate and possibly caused a phishing virus to embed itself in a computer, allowing access to all the information stored there. It could happen to anyone, but it happened to someone in the news and there are different standards employed for the rich, famous and politicians.

Trump, The Press, Auto Correct and Stuff

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Blake Hounshell

Some mistakes, however, are not caused by a simply mistake with fingers and thumbs, they are caused by a genuine lack of knowledge, a momentary lack of concentration, or worse a failing in the education system. I’ll not go into the third in this case, no matter how tempting it could be, and assume that Donald Trump’s misspelling of unprecedented as unpresidented was a slip of the thumb. The letters are close to one another, relatively, so it is possible.

Trump, The Press, Auto Correct and Stuff

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Sam Stein

And Trump does, after some time and many, many comments, correct the mistake by deleting the original Tweet and sending out a new, corrected version. Or, rather, someone did it for him. We all know that the Donald doesn’t make mistakes, so he would hardly have taken the trouble to correct the error himself, probably lambasted Merriam Webster for having a different spelling, claimed that the publication is dying and the editor-in-chief on the way out.

Trump, The Press, Auto Correct and Stuff

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Catherine Rampell

The whole, very minor, incident does show, however, how people are keeping an eye on Trump, and trying to find each and every little failing, mistake, miswhatever to catch him out on. I guess that’s the price he will have to pay for the next few years, much the same as Barack Obama has had to live with certain birthers getting on his birth certificate for the last eight years, and there being no sign of an end to that stupidity either.

Trump, The Press, Auto Correct and Stuff

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Stew

The Twitter account does belong to Trump, however, no matter how often his mentor’s may try to limit his usage, and it is up to him to use it as he wishes; even if that means we will now have policy and press conferences via Twitter rather than by the old, tried and trusted methods.

Trump, The Press, Auto Correct and Stuff

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Blake Hounshell

And we all know that Trump tends to Tweet when all his advisors are sound asleep and can’t catch him in the act. They don’t seem to have learned from his habit yet, perhaps that will come with time.

What I find sad about the whole thing is not that he made a mistake, and not so much that hundreds of people – including reputable journalists – jumped on him for it, but the fact that anyone else would have been given a laugh and a slap on the back and nothing more. There are countless examples of spelling errors – whether auto-correct or otherwise – on the Internet, from YouTube right through to specialized web sites, and we look, we read, we laugh. Now, I’m not a fan of the Donald, and I don’t envisage my opinion changing in the near future – although there are always hopes – but this wasn’t above-board. He made a mistake, just like anyone else, even a journalist with copy editors. Let it pass. Concentrate on the important things in life.

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Loan Interest: How Much Are You Paying?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 16, 2016 in News & Opinion |

This is the way it works: you’re short of cash and need a quick loan. You know someone, or there is a payday loan company near you, and you get some ready cash to help you through the day, a few days, the week. Simple as that.

Except that the interest many people pay on their short-term loans eats up the money they need to survive the next week or month, and they are forced to go back again and again to cover the gap, to bridge themselves over to the next check. We’re talking about interest rates which no respectable bank would be allowed to charge, and which no one would wish to pay if a bank did charge them.

In the United States there has been a minor outcry against this form of (legal) loan-sharking, but only minor since it takes money from the pockets of poor people who, as we all know, count for less than upper middle class or multimillionaires – who can negotiate their own interest rates at any bank any way.

Payday Loans

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Salon

In the United Kingdom there is a similar sort of business model, but not based on paychecks, since most receive their wages or salary paid directly into their checking account. This, I might add, is the general form throughout Europe: you’re paid monthly – often with a large portion of your wages being credited at the end of the month and the balance by the fifteenth of the following month to allow extra hours and allowances – and the money goes direct into the bank. No need to take a check there and wait for it to clear and, more important, the bank knows the cash is coming, so credit ratings are better and loans easier to gain.

This similar paycheck loan business model reared its ugly head in my direction as I was watching an English television program, and didn’t hurry off during the commercial break to make a coffee or answer the call of nature. I caught an advert for a quick loan service with an Annual Percentage Rate of nearly seventy percent. This, I thought, is unreal: how can anyone want a loan from such a company when banks offer loans with an APR of under twenty percent?

It clearly works, otherwise these companies would be able to afford the advertising costs. I caught another one, with an APR over three hundred percent. This, I thought, is the limit.

It wasn’t. A third one – this is in the course of one evening – advertised with a rate of six hundred and eighty-five percent. Try and get your mind around that figure. You borrow one dollar and have to pay so much back on that small loan that, when calculated over twelve months, it comes to nearly seven hundred percent.

I switched off completely when I saw one for one thousand, two hundred percent APR. Let them leave Europe, clearly everything is fine in the United Kingdom.

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From Hacker Who Is Asking A Question

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 15, 2016 in Internet |

I get all sorts of mails and messages, some serious, some amusing, many straight into the spam bucket, some downright, well, you know what I mean. I tend to know at a glance what someone is up to, whether they are serious or not, whether there is a scam behind what they’re saying or a real opportunity. So, when I got this mail the other day, all was clear for me:

From: Hacker who is asking a question <zhabhow69@gmail.com>

Subject: some buisnees of mine

Message Body:

Im am here to ask If I can use your selfie picture in official ANONYNMOUS business which if you want to know just send me and email and with your picture I will be creating a facebook under a false name to attract some one of importance to Anonymous

my emails are :



to report something to me send email to viralc0de.anonymous@gmail.com

There are many things here. Clearly whoever sent the mail is not working for or with Anonymous – they can’t even spell it right! If Anonymous wanted to catch, or attract, an important person, they’d do it without the need to create a Facebook profile with my picture, or that of anyone else. I am reasonably sure that Anonymous people wouldn’t bother using mail through Google either, but I guess each person decides for him or herself. And why would they say what they want it for anyway?

Why, come to that, would anyone wish to believe that someone else would be prepared to provide their picture and link themselves to fraud? There can’t be many people left in the world who are that stupid, can there? I mean, aside from the idiot who sent me this mail…

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Playing The Stock Market

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 14, 2016 in News & Opinion |

Two days ago a small thought came to me, after I had seen reports about the troubles Boeing and other companies have had, or could potentially have, when Trump lets his thumbs do the talking through Twitter. In between the realization that these Tweets will probably be his press releases now, whether he wants to sit at the same table as Jack Dorsey or not, came the darker knowledge:

Twitter - Viktoria Michaelis
Twitter - Viktoria Michaelis
Twitter - Viktoria Michaelis
My thought was that, when Trump tanks on a company, its shares will plummet in value. It may only be for a few hours, but that is long enough for anyone in the know, and with the spare cash to follow through, to take action. If they happen to be up and about at three in the morning.

It seems that I am not the only one who has not only had this thought, but taken action on it:

Trump Playing the Market

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Salon

Salon published this article this morning which, in a slightly longer form than my Tweets can achieve, says much the same thing. Someone is out there watching and waiting. When Trump tweets and tanks on a company such as Boeing, they get involved whether by short-selling, or by buying at the lowest point and selling off again when the shares get back to where they should be.

Now, if Trump worked for the companies he is tanking, he’d be taken for an inside trader, something which isn’t too well thought of, to the point that it is illegal. Instead, he isn’t, but could almost be accused of industrial espionage. The way in which stocks and shares work is not the same as with journalism: Trump can tank on Vogue Teen or any other publication which lambasted or criticized him, and there will be next to no detrimental result; stocks and shares react differently and the value of a company can literally be destroyed by a wrong word.

But, as we all know, Trump only wants what is best for his America….

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Not Exactly Tasteful

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 13, 2016 in Immoral Conversations |

I had many strange thoughts about Europe before I came here, and even addressed a few of them here in an early post. I remember asking whether European women shaved their pits or not, because I had heard that they did not and, as we all know, such things are considered unacceptable in the prime, proper United States.

I have learned better. I have spent time here in Europe, with the people who live here, and educated myself, in more ways than one. Which doesn’t mean that other people do the same, as could be intimated by this:

British Underwear

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Politico

As we battle through all the thoughts and justifications for the Presidential election results in the States, I don’t think we have quite managed to stoop this low. There has been talk of white supremacy, of those with and without college education, of immigrants and voter suppression. However, to the best of my knowledge, there has been nothing (yet) stating that either Trump or Clinton voters do not change their underwear regularly.

And I sincerely hope we do not fall that low either. Despite the fact that this is an American ‘news’ publication quoting their European offices, and I do not doubt for one second it will cross someone’s mind eventually.

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Religious Freedom Is Only For Christians

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 1, 2016 in News & Opinion |

There are, in theory, two great bastions of religious freedom, going by what their governments, constitutions or laws claim: the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Both of these countries have experienced religious persecution in the past – indeed, the North American continent was initially colonized by people wishing to get away from religious persecution in England and Europe – and have fought to prevent such persecution occurring ever again.

Of course, there have been many incidents of intolerance over the centuries; it is impossible to wipe such actions out of society completely as there are always those who firmly believe that their religion, despite the law and many proclamations from their religious leaders, is the one and only with no other religion capable of being tolerated. Statistics, however you wish to take them, appear to show that religious tolerance is beginning to wear thin once more, on both sides of the Atlantic. This Tweet came to my attention the other day: an English supermarket requesting tolerance when it comes to religious beliefs and food, copied by an American organization – which one can assume is of the extreme right (we’re not supposed to say alt-right any more) – with a clear call to soil the food, by association with ‘unclean’ food, of others.

Religious Hatred

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Rebellion Report / Ann Coulter

I wouldn’t normally have found this posting with any ease, neither account is on my watch and read list, but for the fact that it had been reposted by someone who is on that list. Someone who believes in American values to such an extent that she constantly demands actions which go against both the Constitution and the laws of the land as much as true social values and moral principles: Ann Coulter.

In other words, if I may assume that this retweet is as close to an endorsement as you can get, Coulter is suggesting that Americans attack people of a non-Christian religious belief. She is putting our society back to the position it was in before the Mayflower set sail, when our forefathers were persecuted, attacked, tortured and killed. Something which the founding of the United States of America was designed to prevent for evermore.

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USA: Not My President

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on November 28, 2016 in News & Opinion |

You can go back all the way through history and study every single country which has an elected officer at its head, and you’ll find exactly what we have in the United States today: a group of people claiming that this person is not their person, because they did not vote for him. We’ve had it during Barack Obama’s presidency from Republicans; during the Bush years from Democrats; we’re going to have it during the Trump years.

Not My President

Photo Source: Matt JohnsonCreative Commons

So many people who have not understood how the democratic will works – even with an Electoral College such as in the States – the person elected is President for all, even when some did not vote for him to her. There will always be someone who voted for the other candidate, but that doesn’t stop the elected person from being the one taking office, and from being the one who should represent all citizens, regardless of their political leanings.

The fact that the Electoral College is not an ideal form of democracy, since it can easily happen – as this year, once again – that the most popular candidate, the one with the most votes, does not achieve election, is something which must still be addressed by Congress. But the President is still ‘our’ President, whether we voted for him or not, whether he wish to accept him or not.

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