Influencers Politics Society

UK’s Prince Phillip will be taken to the grave in a custom made Land Rover hearse

Not to be outdone in death, the British Royal family is as well known for its lavish funerals as lavish weddings. Prince Phillip is the latest British royal to make global news headlines this month with his unsurprising death at the ripe old age of 99. 

While getting old and dying might not be quite the front page news tabloids and the BBC have been making it out to be, one noteworthy part of the whole affair is the customised Land Rover – designed by Prince Phillip himself – that will be taking the now deceased monarch to the grave. 

Following the death of Princess Diana, the palace was criticised for their lack of humanity in the face of a nation’s grief. This time however, end to end BBC broadcasting of coverage on the Duke’s life has received over 110,000 complaints from all over the UK. 

In this respect, the over coverage of the Duke’s life and death seems more like a propaganda move from the royals who may be trying to make themselves more relatable in this time of tragedy for many who have lost one of the 127,000 people to COVID-19 so far. It is likely also the palace’s way of preparing the nation for the imminent demise of the Queen herself who at 94 years old, is almost ready to send herself a centenarian telegram. 

The funeral is set to take place on Saturday 17th April 2021 and will feature an eight minute procession within Windsor Castle. In a strange turn of events it has been revealed by the palace that Prince Phillip will be travelling to his grave in a Land Rover designed by the prince himself. 

Knowing old age was approaching it seems Prince Phillip spent the last 16 years designing and working with Land Rover to manufacture his dream hearse. The hearse takes on the classic Land Rover design at the front, whilst the back looks more like a pick-up truck style, long enough to fit the Prince’s coffin. 

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Gwyneth Paltrow criticised for Goop’s alternative COVID-19 remedies

Gwenyth Paltrow has come under fire recently for the alternative COVID-19 remedy treatments offered by her company Goop. Goop is the company Paltrow founded in 2008 that cites itself as a modern wellness and lifestyle brand. The company has caused controversy previously with wackier items such as its infamous vagina scented candle, and has most recently been the subject of criticism for its alternative covid treatments labelled as completely ineffective by experts. 

Paltrow counterclaims the effectiveness of the treatments, drawing from her own experience of having the virus very early on in the pandemic last year in Spring 2020. In a blog post on the Goop website, Paltrow explains: “A little background: I had COVID-19 early on, and it left me with some long-tail fatigue and brain fog.” She goes on to describe how she treated these symptoms of what has been termed ‘long-covid’ with fasting until 11am everyday combined with a plant based and keto diet. She also touts supplements available for purchase via the website for a “healthy microbiome” to keep the gut well. 

While Paltrow calls it a long term body detox, experts have called the method completely useless and unscientific in its approach to combating the long term symptoms of COVID-19. Dr. Michael Saag from the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an infectious disease expert. He told the online media platform Live Science: “I know of no scientific rationale for this approach and know of no data from clinical studies demonstrating the efficacy of these interventions”. 

The COVID-19 coronavirus global pandemic continues across the world with Europe fearing a dreaded and imminent third wave of the virus. Elsewhere, vaccination rollouts have been increased in Australia where concerns are that the virus will spread rapidly from Papua New Guinea where there has been a sharp increase in cases recently.

Society Travel

Tokyo Olympics bans spectators from overseas

The Tokyo Olympics has already been subject to numerous setbacks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus global pandemic. After initially being cancelled in 2020, there were many fears the games would once again be cancelled in 2021 and may be postponed indefinitely. For those sports enthusiasts whose careers can be made or broken by the games, as well as the thousands of audience members who enjoy watching on screen and in person, the future of the games has been unclear. 

Government officials in Japan have for a long time however declared that the games would not be fully cancelled, but had been strategizing as much as they could how to make the games safe during the coronavirus pandemic. While social distancing measures amongst the audience will aim to help reduce the risk of transmission during the games, the predicament of how and if it was morally ethical to fly sportspeople and audience members internationally during this time of global crises remained. 

The problem has finally however now seen some solutions offered. Japanese officials for the games released a statement last week that decided overseas spectators would not be invited to the games this year as a COVID-19 restriction to prevent further outbreaks of the disease in Japan, and the potential for new mutant strains to arrive in the country or manifest. 

Athletes from around the world will still travel to Japan to take place in the games, but they will be subject to strict testing and lockdown measures before, during and after the event. This is the government’s best strategy for holding the games whilst keeping as many people safe as possible from the virus. The same rules and restrictions will also be applied for the following Paralympic games

The Olympics is set to be held from Friday 23rd July to Sunday 8th August 2021, with the Paralympics held shortly after from Tuesday 24th August to Sunday 5th September 2021. 

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The birth of cryptocurrency Zcash

Cryptocurrencies have been the subject of great mystery since the first creation of the original digital currency Bitcoin back in 2009. As the legend of Bitcoin goes, the creator Satoshi Nakamoto has still yet to have their identity revealed. The mystery of Bitcoin however stops there, as the simplicity and public openness of its blockchain technology is actually one of the selling and security points in Bitcoin’s favour. 

There is a new cryptocurrency however even more steeped in mystery than its original. Zcash is not a new digital coin, but with renewed interest in online currencies after Bitcoing and fellow coin Ether reached all time highs this year, RadioLab podcast series revisited the birth of Zcash. 

Morgan Peck is the RadioLab journalist who was present at the birth of Zcash, there to witness the myriad and labyrinth-like set up the small team had created to produce the coin. Layers of security were created by the team which involved simple hacks, like moving computers away from the wall to avoid microphones hearing from the other room, to complicated chain series where multiple computers were involved in producing a key only to then be destroyed by their user after completion. 

The drama however occurred when the reporter’s phone began to produce a feedback loop roughly halfway through the ceremony that placed fears into the group they had been hacked. With the multiple security procedures in place however, they decided it was safe enough to continue the procedure and as a result the Zcash coin was born. 

The secret ceremony was constructed with multiple cameras recording the events, with then additional cameras filming the first cameras so as to ensure they had not been tampered with. The extreme measures were put in place to inspire trust in the birth of the currency which positions itself as the full private for users – the opposite to Bitcoin.The birth of cryptocurrency Zcash

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Twitter stands up to world leaders with account bans

Twitter has been a leader in the social media forefront since its conception back in 2015. The platform finally launched publicly on March 26th 2006 and has been a long-standing big name amongst the online social media giants since. After a controversial banning of the then U.S. President Donald Trump back in early 2021, it has made global headlines again with its banning of an account linked to the Iranian president Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

The Associated Press was the first to report the closing of an account named @khamenei_site, which had been linked to the Supreme Leader of Iran’s personal website. The account, written in Farsi, was claimed to have violated the hate speech regulations of the platforms when it posted an image of Trump playing golf. While the image may at first seem harmless, the connected caption written in Farsi translated as a threatening ‘Revenge is certain’. 

The account was linked without a doubt to the Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, when the same image then appeared on his website last month. The picture was accompanied again with a quote from the Supreme Leader Khamenei: ‘Soleimani’s murderers and those who ordered his murder must face revenge. … Both the murderers and those who ordered it should know that revenge may come at any time.’

The account ban comes after Twitter made sensational world news previously with their banning of Donald Trump from the platform – whilst he was still president of the United States of America. A statement about the suspension, which was released via the Twitter blog on Friday 8th January 2021, cited a ‘risk of further incitement of violence’ as the cause for concern driving the shutdown. 

The statement came the same day in response to Trump’s tweets that are alleged to have started the riots in the capital, for which he is now also under an ongoing impeachment trial.

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Libraries by the yard for Zoom backgrounds make a rise in demand for second hand books

The year of 2020 has been quite the year of ‘strange and unprecedented’ times as the saying goes and 2021 looks set to keep hold of that tradition. As the slow realisation that life will never return to quite how it once was, we continue to find ourselves adapting to life in this ‘new normal’. 

Zoom is one company that has dominated headlines this year as making mega-profits from the uptake in sales of their platform from users stuck at home due to the pandemic. The company has truly lucked out from a worldwide tragedy with a staggering rise in profits from $5.5 million to $185.7 million for the same period last year. 

Yet it’s not just the company Zoom that has profited from the rise in digital conferencing software usage. Zoom has become a new word in our shared vocabulary, changing culture with effects such as detailed neckline and slouchy waistline as Zoom influenced fashion trends that emerged in late 2020. The brand name software has even coined its own term of ‘zoomers’ – a play on the word ‘boomers’ to describe older generations, ‘zoomers’ describes those of Gen Z born into this time. 

Other unpredictable consequences of the rise in videoing into work from home is the increasing demand for second hand books. Some large scale companies such as Random House offer free digital zoom backgrounds including their publications, whilst other more boutique companies such as Bookbarn International offer bespoke services. The UK based book store describes the growing interest in their library by the yard service, which aims to help customers looking to improve their home office decor. The second hand book retailer will then help to tailor make the bookshelf into a selection uniquely tailored for each customer. The aim of the retailer is to help customers find books that reflect and expand upon their individual interests and specialities.

Influencers Politics Society Travel

Online influencers receive backlash for travel during global pandemic

Online influencers have received backlash recently for their lavish Instagram posts featuring them globetrotting and holidaying as usual, despite a global pandemic. Social media stars, often having risen to fame from reality TV shows or celebrity gossip sites, are used by businesses as advertising for their services or products in the same way as traditional advertising uses famous actors or models. Stars of social media sites like Instagram and TikTok however have been deemed out of touch with the public to be posting jealousy inducing travel porn whilst the majority of us around the world are still existing in various states of lockdown. 

Stars such as ‘travelinmysoul’, the TikTok account run by influence account Barbora Ondrackova, has over 176.6 thousand followers on TikTok and over 535 thousand followers on her @fashioninmysoul Instagram. Many of her thousands of fans however were displeased at a post she made at the end of 2020 showing a compilation of places she’d visited that year. The insensitivity of the post and questionable activity of the content enraged many commenters. 

Other influencers coming under fire for their choice to continue travel during a time when infections of COVID-19 continue to rise in many places include reality TV star Chloe Ferry. The star, made famous on UK reality show Geordie Shore, featured herself in Dubai partying as usual and making the statement to “Fuck 2020!” Celebrities such as Ferry have clapbacked at the criticisms, claiming the travel was essential for their work online as influencers. 

Elsewhere in the USA there have been fears that influencers online taking refuge from the pandemic in more rural areas may encourage a migration by others. As people confined to densely populated urban areas become increasingly frustrated by lockdown measures, there are concerns they will follow their celebrity idols to smaller and middle-town areas currently less affected by the pandemic.

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Who is Q?

“Q”, the anonymous individual behind the QAnon movement, is apparently two people—or was one person and is now another. That’s according to an analysis done by a company called OrphAnalytics. OrphAnalytics is dedicated to authenticating texts and “detecting ghostwriting issues.”

The company recently applied its genomics-based technology to 4952 QAnon posts—or “Q drops”—that had been published on 4chan and 8chan between October 2017 and November 2020.

“The whole corpus is collected in order to challenge the proposal that a single writer be the sole author of Q-drops specific to QAnon,” OrphAnalytics wrote in an abstract.

It goes on to explain (in absurdly esoteric language that would stop a fast courier in its tracks):

“The stylometry of the 7.5k concatenates of Q-drops classified chronologically reveals two clusters, characteristic of two different styles, which correspond to the two periods of publication of the Q-drops on the 4chan and 8chan forums. This observation sheds light on the background information of the media surveys.

“The signal is mostly carried by Q-drops of less than 1000 characters and clustering does not seem to interfere with the analyses. The other type of concatenation tested, concatenation by size, proves unable to cluster reasonably. A success rate was calculated by non-hierarchical clustering analysis: more than 90%. This rate is comparable to that measured in a criminal case under investigation and to that obtained on texts from a solved case.”

What the hell does that mean? Damned if I know. Apparently it means that two different people have written as “Q.”

“Our results very strongly suggest the existence of two different authors behind Q,” said OrphAnalytics’ CEO Claude Alain Roten, according to PRNewswire. “Moreover, these distinct signatures clearly correspond to separate periods in time and different online forums.”

In other words, the 4chan Q is different from the 8chan Q. The former was active from October 28, 2017 to December 1, 2017—a pretty short stint. At that point, the Q baton was passed to someone else, and that person began posting on 8chan. Roten says it’s probable—though not certain—that a single person has authored all of the Q drops since December 2017.

So where is OrphAnalytics going with this? Well, Roten says the objective is to unmask Mr Q.

“The next step is to contribute putting a name on QAnon by comparing these signatures to those of the usual suspects,” he said. “To do that, we gather and cure written material from these persons to compare it with Q messages.” 

It has been suggested that 8chan owner Jim Watkins is Q. That seems logical enough.

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YouTube profits from animal torture: report

A new investigation by animal welfare group Lady Freethinker determined that YouTube knowingly profits from depictions of extreme animal abuse. The investigation found about 2,000 videos “glorifying animal cruelty”; combined, they have more than 1 billion views. Using publicly available data, the group estimated that the abusive videos may have resulted in as much as $12 million in ad revenue for YouTube, plus as much as $15 million in revenue for the creeps who uploaded them.

The animal abuse freely available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube—owned by Google—includes but is not limited to: animal fighting (dogs, roosters, snakes, etc.), abusive captivity, eating animals alive, staged “rescue” videos, and hunting animals with other animals.

There are reportedly at least 146 YouTube channels devoted to celebrating animal abuse, with more than 30 million subscribers. Disturbing to say the least, especially when you consider that most of them would have no trouble passing a crime check like police clearance WA.

“This content is both incredibly cruel and dangerous for people,” Lady Freethinker wrote on its website. “Many of the animals exploited in these videos are potential hosts for zoonotic diseases — like rabies, tuberculosis, Ebola, measles, and more — that can spread to humans.

“LFT is calling on YouTube to show that it doesn’t prioritize profits over the humane treatment of animals. Sign our petition urging the company to take down these videos and adopt a strong policy to detect and remove all content promoting animal cruelty in the future.”

Reached for comment by the Guardian newspaper, YouTube had this to say for itself: “YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit any violent or gory content intended to shock or disgust viewers, including the unnecessary infliction of harm on animals. We routinely remove videos and comments flagged by our community that violate those policies, and in many cases we terminate the accounts of users who violate our guidelines.”

But Lady Freethinker reports that, between April and July of this year, YouTube only removed 185 of the approximately 2,000 videos flagged by the charity.

As for those “community guidelines” that clearly aren’t enforced, they supposedly prohibit dogfighting, cockfighting, videos showing “unnecessary suffering,” bullfighting, and hunting “using illegal practices.” All of which can be found on YouTube right now.

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Instagram vs the harlots

Strumpets et alia are reportedly up in arms over Instagram’s new (but not really new) terms of use and community guidelines, which make it difficult to advertise sexual services on the image sharing platform. As I understand it (but maybe my understanding is flawed; I’ve spent the last 24 hours shopping for a cashmere cardigan for Christmas, so my eyes and brain are little impaired), Instagram recently reiterated and rephrased its terms of use without actually changing them. But its prostitute users are still angry, claiming that the update was in fact a shot across the bow at them.

Instagram enforces the same “sexual solicitation” restrictions as Facebook. That is, it prohibits content that “facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual encounters or commercial sexual services between adults such as prostitution or escort services.” Nor is “sexually explicit language” permitted.

More specifically, users cannot post porn, “strip club shows,” “erotic dances,” or sexual massages. They cannot solicit any of those things either. Also banned are “suggestive elements” including “sexual emojis” (I gotta get me some of them), “sexualised slang,” and my personal favorite, references to “wetness or erection.”

Sounds pretty puritanical to me. Historically, most puritans are closet perverts and/or paraphiliacs. Just a thought.

On Instagram, no images of intercourse, genitals or “close-ups of fully-nude buttocks” are allowed. Which sort of defeats the whole purpose of an image sharing app, no? What do people post on there if not close-ups of fully-nude buttocks?

There’s a little bit of latitude with regard to female nipples, including “photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding.” Why anyone would feel the need to post a photo of themselves breastfeeding is a little bit beyond me, but whatever blows your hair back, I guess.

Anyway, as I said, prostitutes have their g-strings in a bunch over all of this. A sex educator called Taylor Sparks spoke about the outrage to Mashable: “Instagram and Facebook guidelines will have sex educators, tantric coaches and professional Dommes walking on eggshells because you don’t know if those monitoring your page will consider the word penis or dick more offensive.”

Good point. Better stick with “johnson” or “ramrod.” Those usually slide past the censors and into their destination. “Tallywhacker” also works.