Acts 16:26-34 (NIV) — from BibleGateway.com

26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

 

 

For the first time in its history, the Gerber spokesbaby is a child with Down syndrome — from cnn.com by Andrea Diaz

Excerpt:

(CNN) This cutie with a contagious smile is 18-month-old Lucas Warren and on (2/7/18) he made history: He’s the first child with Down syndrome to become Gerber’s “Spokesbaby of the year” in its 91-year history.

 

Meet the first Gerber Baby with Down syndrome

 

From DSC:
I just saw this item from last February… and I love it! 

 

 

Why Facebook’s banned “Research” app was so invasive — from wired.com by Louise Matsakislo

Excerpts:

Facebook reportedly paid users between the ages of 13 and 35 $20 a month to download the app through beta-testing companies like Applause, BetaBound, and uTest.


Apple typically doesn’t allow app developers to go around the App Store, but its enterprise program is one exception. It’s what allows companies to create custom apps not meant to be downloaded publicly, like an iPad app for signing guests into a corporate office. But Facebook used this program for a consumer research app, which Apple says violates its rules. “Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.” Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Facebook needed to bypass Apple’s usual policies because its Research app is particularly invasive. First, it requires users to install what is known as a “root certificate.” This lets Facebook look at much of your browsing history and other network data, even if it’s encrypted. The certificate is like a shape-shifting passport—with it, Facebook can pretend to be almost anyone it wants.

To use a nondigital analogy, Facebook not only intercepted every letter participants sent and received, it also had the ability to open and read them. All for $20 a month!

Facebook’s latest privacy scandal is a good reminder to be wary of mobile apps that aren’t available for download in official app stores. It’s easy to overlook how much of your information might be collected, or to accidentally install a malicious version of Fortnite, for instance. VPNs can be great privacy tools, but many free ones sell their users’ data in order to make money. Before downloading anything, especially an app that promises to earn you some extra cash, it’s always worth taking another look at the risks involved.

 

Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

Matthew 7:12 New International Version (NIV)

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

 

 

Big tech may look troubled, but it’s just getting started — from nytimes.com by David Streitfeld

Excerpt:

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Silicon Valley ended 2018 somewhere it had never been: embattled.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum say Big Tech, for so long the exalted embodiment of American genius, has too much power. Once seen as a force for making our lives better and our brains smarter, tech is now accused of inflaming, radicalizing, dumbing down and squeezing the masses. Tech company stocks have been pummeled from their highs. Regulation looms. Even tech executives are calling for it.

The expansion underlines the dizzying truth of Big Tech: It is barely getting started.

 

“For all intents and purposes, we’re only 35 years into a 75- or 80-year process of moving from analog to digital,” said Tim Bajarin, a longtime tech consultant to companies including Apple, IBM and Microsoft. “The image of Silicon Valley as Nirvana has certainly taken a hit, but the reality is that we the consumers are constantly voting for them.”

 

Big Tech needs to be regulated, many are beginning to argue, and yet there are worries about giving that power to the government.

Which leaves regulation up to the companies themselves, always a dubious proposition.

 

 

 

Why should anyone believe Facebook anymore? — from wired.com by Fred Vogelstein

Excerpt:

Just since the end of September, Facebook announced the biggest security breach in its history, affecting more than 30 million accounts. Meanwhile, investigations in November revealed that, among other things, the company had hired a Washington firm to spread its own brand of misinformation on other platforms, including borderline anti-Semitic stories about financier George Soros. Just two weeks ago, a cache of internal emails dating back to 2012 revealed that at times Facebook thought a lot more about how to make money off users’ data than about how to protect it.

Now, according to a New York Times investigation into Facebook’s data practices published Tuesday, long after Facebook said it had taken steps to protect user data from the kinds of leakages that made Cambridge Analytica possible, the company continued to sustain special, undisclosed data-sharing arrangements with more than 150 companies—some into this year. Unlike with Cambridge Analytica, the Times says, Facebook provided access to its users’ data knowingly and on a greater scale.

 

What has enabled them to deliver these apologies, year after year, was that these sycophantic monologues were always true enough to be believable. The Times’ story calls into question every one of those apologies—especially the ones issued this year.

There’s a simple takeaway from all this, and it’s not a pretty one: Facebook is either a mendacious, arrogant corporation in the mold of a 1980s-style Wall Street firm, or it is a company in much more disarray than it has been letting on. 

It’s hard to process this without finally realizing what it is that’s made us so angry with Silicon Valley, and Facebook in particular, in 2018: We feel lied to, like these companies are playing us, their users, for chumps, and they’re also laughing at us for being so naive.

 

 

Also related/see:

‘We’ve hit an inflection point’: Big Tech failed big-time in 2018 — from finance.yahoo.com by JP Mangalindan

Excerpt:

2018 will be remembered as the year the public’s big soft-hearted love affair with Big Tech came to a screeching halt.

For years, lawmakers and the public let massive companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon run largely unchecked. Billions of people handed them their data — photos, locations, and other status-rich updates — with little scrutiny or question. Then came revelations around several high-profile data breaches from Facebook: a back-to-back series of rude awakenings that taught casual web-surfing, smartphone-toting citizens that uploading their data into the digital ether could have consequences. Google reignited the conversation around sexual harassment, spurring thousands of employees to walk out, while Facebook reminded some corners of the U.S. that racial bias, even in supposedly egalitarian Silicon Valley, remained alive and well. And Amazon courted well over 200 U.S. cities in its gaudy and protracted search for a second headquarters.

“I think 2018 was the year that people really called tech companies on the carpet about the way that they’ve been behaving conducting their business,” explained Susan Etlinger, an analyst at the San Francisco-based Altimeter Group. “We’ve hit an inflection point where people no longer feel comfortable with the ways businesses are conducting themselves. At the same time, we’re also at a point, historically, where there’s just so much more willingness to call out businesses and institutions on bigotry, racism, sexism and other kinds of bias.”

 

The public’s love affair with Facebook hit its first major rough patch in 2016 when Russian trolls attempted to meddle with the 2016 U.S. presidential election using the social media platform. But it was the Cambridge Analytica controversy that may go down in internet history as the start of a series of back-to-back, bruising controversies for the social network, which for years, served as the Silicon Valley poster child of the nouveau American Dream. 

 

 

 

 

Luke 2 New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a]Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses,Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[b]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[c]

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[f] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Is Amazon’s algorithm cashing in on the Camp Fire by raising the cost of safety equipment? — from wired.co.uk by Matthew Chapman
Sudden and repeated price increases on fire extinguishers, axes and escape ladders sold on Amazon are seemingly linked to increased demand driven by California’s Camp Fire

Excerpt:

Amazon’s algorithm has allegedly been raising the price of fire safety equipment in response to increased demand during the California wildfires. The practice, known as surge pricing, has caused products including fire extinguishers and escape ladders to fluctuate significantly on Amazon, seemingly as a result of the retailer’s pricing system responding to increased demand.

An industry source with knowledge of the firm’s operations claims a similar price surge was triggered by the Grenfell Tower fire. A number of recent price rises coincide directly with the outbreak of the Camp Fire, which has been the deadliest in California’s history and resulted in at least 83 deaths.

 

From DSC:
I’ve been thinking a lot more about Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos in recent months, though I’m not entirely sure why. I think part of it has to do with the goals of capitalism.

If you want to see a winner in the way America trains up students, entrepreneurs, and business people, look no further than Jeff Bezos. He is the year-in-and-year-out champion of capitalism. He is the winner. He is the Michael Jordan of business. He is the top. He gets how the game is played and he’s a master at it. By all worldly standards, Jeff Bezos is the winner.

But historically speaking, he doesn’t come across like someone such as Bill Gates — someone who has used his wealth to literally, significantly, and positively change millions of lives. (Though finally that looks to be changing a bit, with the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund; the first grants of that fund total $97 million and will be given to 24 organizations working to address family homelessness. Source.)

Along those same lines — and expanding the scope a bit — I’m struggling with what the goals of capitalism are for us today…especially in an era of AI, algorithms, robotics, automation and the like. If the goal is simply to make as much profit as possible, we could be in trouble. If what occurs to people and families is much lower down the totem pole…what are the ramifications of that for our society? Yes, it’s a tough, cold world. But does it always have to be that way? What is the best, most excellent goal to pursue? What are we truly seeking to accomplish?

After my Uncle Chan died years ago, my Aunt Gail took over the family’s office supply business and ran it like a family. She cared about her employees and made decisions with an eye towards how things would impact her employees and their families. Yes, she had to make sound business decisions, but there was true caring in the way that she ran her business. I realize that the Amazon’s of the world are in a whole different league, but the values and principles involved here should not be lost just because of size.

 

To whom much is given…much is expected.

 

 

 

Also see:

GM to lay off 15 percent of salaried workers, halt production at five plants in U.S. and Canada — from washingtonpost.com by Taylor Telford

Wall Street applauded the news, with GM’s stock climbing more than 7 percent following the announcement.

 

From DSC:
Well, I bet those on Wall Street aren’t a part of the 15% of the folks being impacted. The applause is not heard at all from those folks who are being impacted today…whose families are being impacted today…and will be feeling the impact of these announcements for quite a while yet.

 

 

Psalm 100:4 New International Version (NIV)

4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.

 

 

 

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