Wednesday Night #1912

Written by  //  October 31, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

While we rely on Gerald for a round-up of interesting trivia -and not such trivial information- related to the year of 1912. we must call attention to the 10th anniversary of the birth of bitcoin.

Bitcoin: Trick or Treat?

On Oct. 31, 2008, a white paper entitled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” appeared on the mailing list metzdowd.com. It bore the byline of one Satoshi Nakamoto, the address of a new website—bitcoin.org—and the outlines of the first decentralized digital currency. Satoshi Nakamoto is not a real person. Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym of the creator of bitcoin.
Satoshi Nakamoto is one of the wealthiest people on the planet. This person—or persons—has managed to throw global markets into a tizzy, without leaving home (wherever that may be). We know that he—or she—upended the traditional finance system and created a brand-new currency. We just don’t know who he is.
Over the years, many theories have been floated about the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, from pioneering programmers to US government agencies. Newsweek fingered a former telecommunications engineer named Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, but they were wrong by all indications. Eccentric Australian computer scientist Craig Wright claims to be the man, but hasn’t proven it.
The most compelling clues about Satoshi’s identity seem to point to Hungarian-American cryptographer Nick Szabo, the inventor of bit gold, a bitcoin predecessor. Szabo is also widely credited with inventing the term “smart contract,” an automated process often touted as a potential advantage of blockchain technology.  More about the intriguing story and bitcoin

Gerald Ratzer will introduce Gloria Calhoun from Atlanta: “Gloria is a Southern Bell(e) in every sense of the words – coming from Georgia where she worked for Southern Bell for 25 years.
I have just read one chapter of her latest book/Ph. D. thesis on the history of networks in general from making wire, poles, cables, electrical wire, to modern networks. She has a wide range of interests from European history, to social and political situations, etc.”

The Atlantic takes on Twitter: Twitter Should Kill the Retweet
The feature derails healthy conversation and preys on users’ worst instincts.
Retweets prey on users’ worst instincts. They delude Twitter users into thinking that they’re contributing to thoughtful discourse by endlessly amplifying other people’s points—the digital equivalent of shouting “yeah, what they said” in the midst of an argument. And because Twitter doesn’t allow for editing tweets, information that goes viral via retweets is also more likely to be false or exaggerated. According to MIT research published in the journal Science, Twitter users retweet fake news almost twice as much as real news. Other Twitter users, desperate for validation, endlessly retweet their own tweets, spamming followers with duplicate information.
How say you?

The news of Angela Merkel‘s decision not to contest the party leadership election has been greeted with dismay, however, looking on the bright side: Many political experts say the strains of domestic politics have kept Merkel from moving forward more briskly on a slate of European reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron and “There’s also a chance that she can lead without the pressure that all her decisions have to be popular,” Merkel says stepping down as CDU leader will not weaken her on world stage. PoliticoEu is less sanguine “The decision injects further instability into German politics, increasing the likelihood that Merkel’s grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), already hanging by a thread, will collapse in the coming months. What’s more, it now appears inevitable that the race to succeed her atop the CDU will unleash a bitter battle over its direction, one that will further distract the party from governing.”
If that is not enough to worry about, there is always Brexit.

And in Hungary, Central European University Backed by George Soros Prepares to Leave Budapest Under Duress as the country drifts toward authoritarian rule under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the university says it is being forced to close its Budapest campus, portraying itself as a victim of Mr. Orban’s efforts to vilify Mr. Soros and to stifle dissent and academic freedom.

Although the result of  Brazil’s presidential election was not unexpected, it is deeply worrying.Alyhough Jair Bolsonaro denies he is a fascist and paints himself as a Brazilian Churchill, wary observers have noted his public statements such as those cited by The Guardian Brazil’s far-right frontrunner Bolsonaro says he will rule with ‘authority not authoritarianism’. His election does not bode well for the environment and especially the preservation of the Amazon; he has condemned the country’s existing environmental regulations and agencies as bad for development and has promised to roll them back. …deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions could skyrocket, undoing what has been one of Brazil’s signature achievements on the world stage.

On the other side of the world, China is in the news because of concerns that the renminbi could fall below the psychologically important level of 7 to the dollar. The New York Times helpfully reminds us that the last time it took more than 7 renminbi to buy a dollar was in May 2008, as the world was slipping into a financial crisis. The NYT illustration of the effect of such a decline on the price of pink plastic flamingos may be slightly tongue-in-cheek, but makes the point. “A weaker currency can also help Chinese exporters beat President Trump’s tariffs. Right now, the United States imposes tariffs of about 10 percent on a wide variety of Chinese goods that arrive at an American port. If the renminbi has fallen 10 percent, the tariff is basically nullified.”
At the same time, The South China Morning Post reports that the military command that monitors South China Sea and Taiwan has been ordered war-ready, quoting Xi Jinping: “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.”

With so much negativity, it is a pleasure to draw your attention to the election of Sahle-Work Zewde, who becomes Ethiopia’s first female president and Africa’s only female head of state.

Three-quarters of Venice flooded by exceptional high tide
Strong winds push water into historic Italian lagoon city in worst flooding in a decade. ““The basilica has aged 20 years in just one day, and perhaps I am being overly optimistic about that,” said Carlo Tesserin, the church’s chief administrator. “It is becoming ever more difficult for us and indeed could become impossible for us to repair the damage, especially in an age of climate change.”

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION
Wait, Have We Really Wiped Out 60 Percent of Animals?
Many of the blaring headlines about a major new World Wildlife Fund report are mischaracterizing how many species humans have been responsible for wiping out. The reality is not exactly that “humanity has wiped out 60 percent of animals since 1970,” though the real news is still grim, writes Ed Yong.

Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds
The huge loss is a tragedy in itself but also threatens the survival of civilisation, say the world’s leading scientists
Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.
The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.
The biggest cause of wildlife losses is the destruction of natural habitats, much of it to create farmland. Three-quarters of all land on Earth is now significantly affected by human activities. Killing for food is the next biggest cause – 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction – while the oceans are massively overfished, with more than half now being industrially fished.
Chemical pollution is also significant: half the world’s killer whale populations are now doomed to die from PCB contamination. Global trade introduces invasive species and disease, with amphibians decimated by a fungal disease thought to be spread by the pet trade.

Since last Wednesday, Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr was arrested on Friday and made a brief appearance in court in Florida on Monday. Although he is accused of mailing the bombs in South Florida, he will be prosecuted in the Southern District of New York, where several of the potentially explosive packages ended up.The false-flag conspiracy theories proved to indeed be false; but  determined Trump supporters continued to flog them in right-wing media.   The national nightmare was not over, as on Saturday, Robert D. Bowers shot worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue during Shabbat services, killing 11 and wounding six.  David Frum asks “Must this nation worship only behind bars and guards? There’s no politician to blame for the ideas in the synagogue murderer’s head. There are plenty to blame for the weapons in his hands.”

By the time we gather for Wednesday Night #1913 on November 7, the mid-terms will be over and with luck some of the more outrageous promises that Donald Trump has made in his strenuous campaign to energize his base will be curtailed by a less compliant House.But at this stage, who know what will happen.  The divide shaping American politics: white women with college degrees vs. white men without the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey shows the division to be at its widest since the poll began measuring it in 1994. The analysis (behind the WSJ paywall, but sure to be reported in detail by other media) states “To understand how American voters are being driven apart, look no further than two powerful demographic forces: gender and education. Once, the political outlooks of white men without a college degree and white women with one were similar. In recent years, the groups, which represent about 40% of voters, have moved sharply apart.”

Meanwhile, as he rages against the ‘Caravan of migrants’, Trump’s latest desperate move has been to state he plans to sign an executive order that he claims will terminate the right to U.S. citizenship for babies born in America if their parents are non-citizens or unauthorized immigrants—though it’s far from clear if he has that constitutional power.  Trump Claims He’ll End U.S. Birthright Citizenship for Some Immigrants. Even Paul Ryan says ‘You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order’
Watch Larry Haas and Jeremy Kinsman’s latest commentary on the mid-terms, caravan, rhetoric and fear of ‘the other’. They predict a Democratic House. Jeremy reminds the audience that Robert Mueller’s report is due and with a change in the House majority, there will be a very different reception for the findings.

On to more cheerful thoughts:
A quite delightful profile of the son and heir of Wednesday Night Marc Nicholson Of 1880 Says The Members’ Club Is A Place For Idea Sex
Forget about building consensus, Marc Nicholson wants members to exchange ideas and engage in thought-provoking discourses filled with drama and disagreements.
Atlas Obscura is a delightful new (to us) website which I discovered thanks to a posting by a dear friend on The Places You Never Tire of Visiting – well written, succinct posts about some hidden treasures. Many Wednesday Nighters could, no doubt, contribute equally intriguing suggestions.

Finally, Happy Halloween!

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