Tesla Threat to Public Safety

WalMart is suing Tesla for negligence, saying Elon Musk’s rush to market is failing industry standards of safety

…as of November 2018, fires broke out at no fewer than seven of the stores, forcing the disconnection of all the solar panel systems for the safety of the public…[because installed] haphazardly and as quickly as possible in order to turn a profit

Has Tesla released a transparency report on the total number of unexplained fires it’s caused? There are so many.

Even more concerning is how very little tangible response has come from the manufacturer, despite being cited as significantly worse than other manufacturers. For example:

Spontaneous combustion without warning:

…around 8:15 pm on Sunday night, the Tesla Model S is seen emitting smoke before suddenly bursting into flames. Further video shows the resulting charred wreckage, including that of two other nearby cars.

Once you realize the likelihood of a fire is unpredictable and could be increasing dramatically without explanation, the severity of these fires is also a major concern.

The fires seem to re-ignite unpredictably, are extremely toxic and, because of those two attributes, require expensive special training and equipment funded by tax-payers:

“With a gasoline fire, they know if they get enough water on it, it’ll go out,” [Peter Sunderland, a professor of fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland] said. “But with a deep-seated fire, it’s hard to spray the water deep enough into the battery to stop the fire.”

Slate reported that the firefighters who attempted to put out the 2013 Model S car fire in Seattle had trouble and “ended up using a circular saw to cut a hole that would allow them to pour water directly on the battery.”

In a fiery Tesla crash into a barrier in Austria, the car kept reigniting, forcing firefighters to battle the flames for hours. The car had to be put into quarantine for 48 hours to remove the chances of reignition, Jalopnik reported.

What’s more, lithium-ion fires can release high levels of “toxic gases” such as carbon monoxide, soot, hydrogen fluoride, and particulates of oxides of nickel; aluminum; lithium; copper; and cobalt, according to a Tesla Model X emergency response guide. As a result, firefighters need to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus and should use hoses that spray fog and special ventilation fans that push air out at a high velocity to protect bystanders downwind of the fire, according to the guide.

There are dozens of stories of Tesla fires not only being far less predictable, more expensive and more toxic than other products, they seem to not have any cohesive story yet of what to expect in the future.

In several cases the fires were extinguished at first encounter. Then had to be extinguished again on the tow truck. Then had to be extinguished again in the junk yard. That’s a multiplier effect for several reasons, not least of all because fires on tow trucks and in junk yards are not supposed to happen.

Initially Tesla’s CEO tried use social media to claim his products “500% less likely” to catch fire. This almost immediately was disproved (not to mention ridiculed by many for using math incorrectly)

Tesla, without a question, has a way higher incidence of fire deaths than other cars.

Then the car manufacturer tried to pivot to an argument that their fire death statistics aren’t being separated from collisions, where occupants would have died anyway. This again ignores the fact that their fires are different in ways that increase the likelihood of fatalities, not only for occupants but also those responding to help.

Tesla’s CEO should not be allowed to misrepresent harm likelihood and severity of his products when clearly there is ample and growing data on sub-standard engineering practices and threat to society. WalMart is picking up a hot topic, to be sure.

The CEO’s “safer than what you can buy from others” false claim even seems to be turned into a joke by him in 2018, as you can see in his attempts at humor when promoting sales of a flamethrower:

A Boring Company spokesperson said its flamethrower is ‘safer than what you can buy right now off-the-shelf on Amazon to destroy weeds’.

If Tesla wanted to extol virtues of battery technology, it would be that the carbon footprint producing them is zeroed out in just a few years and they emit zero harms when operating normally. That would be a viable defense, while they work to improve engineering to reduce fire likelihood and severity.

However, instead we see a company try dismissive fallacies (false equivalence in fires) and make claims their products give better odds of survival than other manufacturers.

The data doesn’t support Tesla in this comparison, since likelihood and severity of their fires already appear to be higher and trending worse with minimal explanation and no recall.

Tesla had at least quadruple (5 observed fire deaths vs. 1.19 expected) the fire-related mortality of the average car from 2016 through 1Q 2019

In fact, arson soon could be added to increasing probability of Tesla fires as owners realize what spontaneous fire in an unexpected location can mean (e.g. parking garage near structural integrity of a building). Imagine investigators trying to ascertain whether a Tesla exploding within a building was predictable with intent or just another “safer that what you can buy from others” incident.

The infamously glib and unapologetic “everything’s better with fire” social media presence of their CEO suggests WalMart’s lawsuit declaring his product line to be a public safety hazard…may document how failures in engineering duty-to-care may even come from the top.

“Parked Teslas Keep Catching on Fire Randomly, And There’s No Recall In Sight” –TheDrive

Texas Churches Arm Volunteers and Pay to Re-classify as External Employees

A nearly constant state of mass shootings in America has sprung up a bizarre cottage industry. When someone volunteers at a church, it may mean the church will pay money to an outside firm that claims that volunteer as an employee.

A paper in Texas attempts to explain:

The company incorporates Christian teachings into its courses and more than 90 people at 18 churches have completed the 70 hours of initial training and become state-licensed guards through its program, Riggall said. The so-called sheepdogs are insured and technically employed by the company. But they volunteer doing security at their own churches, which in turn pay Riggall.

On a Sunday in July, Brett Faulkner stood with an AR-15 in hand and his back to the cross in the sanctuary of Fellowship of the Parks campus in Haslet, a community about 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of Fort Worth. He pointed the rifle at a young woman’s back and yelled at the armed men advancing into the room, “I’m going to kill this woman. It’s going to happen right now.”

[…]

“It really just comes down to caring about the people in that building,” Faulkner said of choosing to [threaten to kill this woman in] his small Baptist church.

The article is as weird as that sounds. Really. What part of the Christian teachings says volunteers can’t do their volunteer work unless the church pays money to an outside firm to claim them as employees?

It reads to me like “sheepdogs” are people volunteering to carry assault rifles into churches and threaten to kill their own congregations. However, these churches seem to have so little faith that they set it up by paying an outside firm for liability protection against likely bad sheepdogs.

Kubernetes Security Audits Published

Trail of Atredis (Trail of Bits and Atredis Partners) have released findings on Kubernetes security in a series of GitHub documents

Overall, Kubernetes is a large system with significant operational complexity. The assessment team found configuration and deployment of Kubernetes to be non-trivial, with certain components having confusing default settings, missing operational controls, and implicitly defined security controls. The codebase is large and complex, with large sections of code containing minimal documentation and numerous dependencies, including systems external to Kubernetes.

The Assassination of Epstein

There’s a lot of chatter about Epstein conspiracy theorists, which I may run risk of getting bundled into given my recent post about his peculiar counterfeit passport.

However, I’d like to keep my post as factual as possible, as I attempted to do in the passport blog post analysis. Here are some references that may help when looking into the very high likelihood Epstein was assassinated.

One

Epstein was held in jail on charges of “serial child molestation and sex trafficking”, which the current Administration’s Secretary of Labor Acosta apparently tried to help hide.

Acosta used a peculiar way of promoting himself despite allowing sadly lenient treatment of Epstein:

Acosta, the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Florida when the 2008 deal was struck, portrayed his actions and those of his fellow federal prosecutors as heroic and possibly unprecedented.

Remember the word “heroic”. You’ll see why in few minutes.

Critics of Acosta point out he actually blamed the victims for not getting stronger charges, and he falsely asserted a general “climate” of 10 years ago prevented prosecution of sexual crimes. Both of these are reprehensible positions to take.

2019 was the first time Epstein was being seriously incarcerated for crimes he’s been infamously charged with for many years (from 2008 to 2015 Epstein reportedly settled over a dozen lawsuits). Whatever special treatment he had been used to from the likes of Acosta, it now was wearing off quickly.

Also, while Attorney General Barr recused himself from this earlier Florida case where Epstein was given light treatment, Barr did not recuse himself from the NY case.

Something clearly changed, and it seems to be related to the fact that Acosta claimed some intelligence community earlier had been willing and able in Florida to protect Epstein from harm.

Perhaps that is really what Acosta meant when strangely claiming sexual crimes prosecution climate today is different from 10 years ago? Acosta and Barr both act differently towards Epstein now, as if they can’t help him.

Two

Epstein was considered a flight risk and his movement was tightly restricted because large cash holdings as well as private jets and powerful friends that could enable his “Lolita Express”. Court documents have now revealed “flight logs show Trump flew on Epstein’s private plane at least once, in 1997”. Whatever mobility and leverage Epstein had grown used to with his jet-set friends, now also was gone.

Three

While Epstein had lost his help and couldn’t move, others could move on him. Numerous irregularities have been catalogued in the jail, well known by the DoJ and going back at least two years.

Corrections officers may have falsified reports saying they checked on Jeffrey Epstein as required by protocol…[bail was posted for his cellmate] leaving Epstein alone in his cell the day before he died…[and he] was taken off suicide watch about one week after [his throat had choke-marks] on July 23. At least one temporary employee at the detention center was on watch Friday night into Saturday morning, multiple sources said. The replacement employee was not part of the regular detail…A representative for staffers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center said work conditions at the facility have been inadequate for nearly two years. Corrections officers have long complained…

This is stark contrast to his prosecution by Acosta, where in “detention” Epstein was said to be walking around naked and completely without concern for his own safety. A lack of controls over this predator used to be a point of pride, letting him roam and be accessible to whomever, whereas now every minute unobserved became a serious cause for concern.

Four

There was an audible struggle at the time of death, and multiple first-person accounts have explained why suicide is improbable.

‘There’s no way that man could have killed himself. I’ve done too much time in those units. It’s an impossibility,’ said the insider…

These reports come just days after Epstein was found with choke marks around his neck, as mentioned in point three above. A second struggle is suggested by first-person experts to have happened. For whatever reason the first struggle failed, and obvious protections were not put in place, this time it was fatal.

Five

It fits a pattern. Suspected spies (see my passport blog post) that are categorized as distraught and linked to recent events, still end up with gaps in monitoring during the exact moments of “suicide”, limiting internal investigations. A jail in Australia sets a prior example worth studying.

Among the faults that Beltman highlighted were that in the hour before [accused spy’s] death there was no guard positioned at the cell and a journal that should have recorded Zygier’s activities was not filled in. In addition, one of the cameras in the cell was not working properly and the others were inadequate in poorly lit conditions, such as when the light in the cell was turned off.

Six

New York seems to foster the idea of powerful predators walking freely by limiting child survivors of sexual abuse from making claims against them. However, New Jersey allowed a student of the school where Epstein worked to file sexual assault charges against the headmaster.

[Dunnan] served as headmaster at the East 89th Street school for 23 years [1974-1997].

J.S. never reported the alleged assaults to police. Under New York law, the former Dalton student lost the chance to file a criminal or civil claim against the headmaster after she turned 23. But she brought the suit in the Garden State, where the statute of limitations is more flexible than laws governing sexual abuse in New York.

Dunnan had replaced Barr, father of current Attorney General Barr who is registering surprise that the child predator hired by his father died while in custody of a jail with a history of known issues.

‘There were a number of teachers who looked at the student body as their next meal,’ said Mark Robinson who graduated in 1974. […] Epstein was hired by the school’s headmaster Donald Barr, the late father of Attorney General William Barr, whose office is now prosecuting Epstein. Barr apparently used to enjoy hiring young people in their early 20s whom he thought were full or potential, but it was unusual for a teacher, like Epstein, to be hired without a college degree.

Also unusual was Barr’s father writing a book at the time that glorified “Interplanetary Slavery & Sexual Domination”. A reviewer offers this synopsis:

Barr creates two openly ‘superior’ characters as his leads. Craig and Morgan freely kill, torture, seduce and make sweeping political decisions on behalf of thousands of people – but this is acceptable, because they’re somehow imbued with ‘natural heroism.’ Slavery and oppression are wrong, unless you’re someone as wise and talented as Craig or Morgan, in which you’re perfectly justified in forcing decisions on other people.”

Epstein has been described as leveraging the powerful people at that Dalton school into his financial career. It appears that means he adopted some of their philosophy, with an unusually framed sense of power over others. Recent news pointed out he even fantasized about “seeding” the human race, similar to Barr’s science fiction writings.

The Barr family connection does seem important. I’ve written before about how strange it was an Attorney General named “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III” led the DoJ in modern times, since that department explicitly was created to defeat the Jefferson Beauregard legacy of KKK. Now that I know the man who replaced Sessions and is current AG is the son of a man who glorified slavery in fictional books…it has a certain “master race” similarity that could bring an extra-judicial capital-punishment to that Epstein jail cell.

Seven

Perhaps above all, child predators like Epstein operate with “exceptional” power in the United States as it remains alone in the world for refusing to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

On November 20, 1989, unanimously the United Nations General Assembly adopted the CRC, a landmark treaty protecting children from neglect, abuse, and exploitation. The CRC, which entered into force in 1990, is the most universally ratified human rights treaty.

The United States is the only country in the world that has not joined the other 196 nations in embracing the more than quarter-century old CRC treaty, the most universally-ratified human rights treaty in history.

Conclusion

Despite being in a country refusing to recognize rights of the child, and in a state limiting rights of children to prosecute, there may be a large network of powerful predators now willing to pay to assassinate the man who would expose their dealings.

On the face of it, suicide seems far less likely a story than homicide given similar deaths of agents, in similar jail conditions, based on reliable first-person reports, and the bizarre relationships with Acosta and Barr.

The risk Epstein posed to a large network of predators probably is not any obvious exposure of sexual crimes. That still might be brushed off with the same reasons they use to refuse ratifying CRC. Being “exposed” could have as little impact as the infamous “grab them” tape.

Rather, the real risk and pressure for an assassination likely is the exposure of other things Epstein and his network were doing. In their minds they were examples of “natural heroism” (Barr’s phrase, similar to Acosta) above any law; and these people probably are most afraid of exposure of the events used to justify Epstein delivering them his enslaved girls.

As a side note, and final thought, others in the case are far less likely to be in danger of assassination if they know only the names of the men involved, and not the “heroism” events and reasons that made men want to be Epstein’s acquaintance.

That is to say it would be a political assassination, and Epstein’s individual victims pose little political risk compared to his knowledge of operations.

One example of the kind of “executive privilege” events that now may be linked to Epstein is Ronald Reagan’s transfer of arms to Saddam Hussein, via Saudi Arabia, to illegally avoid Congressional oversight let alone accountability to the American public.

The Iran-Contra scandal seems to have been just a tip of the iceberg when factoring that Epstein may have been a useful pawn during that time to intelligence agencies, enslaving girls and trafficking them within arms deals to dictators.

Buttigieg Declares “US Under Attack from Terrorists”

Just over a week ago military veteran and counter-terrorism expert Mayor Buttigieg had warned about the rising threat of white nationalism, describing it as the most deadly form of terrorism in the United States.

He now expands on those warnings in the tragic aftermath of the El Paso, Texas mass shooting:

US Representative from Texas and former CIA officer, Will Hurd, also comments on El Paso calling it “white nationalism terrorism”:

Buttigieg references also a mass shooting in Ohio, and the need for regulation of guns.

Armed response by law enforcement engaged a gunman within 30 seconds. Despite immediate armed response killing the suspect, he still murdered nine people.

Police attribute the high casualties to his automatic rifle that could feed 100s of rounds from dual drums.

…CCTV images then capture the first officers rushing to engage the gunman – who was spraying bullets from his legally bought extended-mag rifle…

The gunman in Ohio so far only is known to have a long record of “toxic masculinity” at his school and was arrested after “drawing up a ‘hit list’ of girls he wanted to kill”.

The gunman in Texas had declared intent to murder Hispanics, and his “manifesto” echoed recent official US government rhetoric such as the word “invasion”:

Migrant caravan ‘is an invasion’

With regard to the debate over regulation of guns in America, see also: Real History of the NRA

RSAC TV Interview with Tim Jenkin

This video link from last year was just pointed out to me, so I thought I should promote it here.

Davi Ottenheimer, of MongoDB, interviews Tim Jenkin, winner of the Excellence in Humanitarian Service award at RSA Conference 2018.

And here is “The Vula Connection”, a documentary with more background on Tim Jenkin’s work

It’s about a man who plays a pivotal role in taking on the Apartheid regime in the most unexpected way. After his audacious break-out, Jenkin disappears into the backrooms of the ANC’s exiled military.

Working from a non-descript London flat, he sets about designing a secret communications system which enables a small group of highly skilled operatives to dodge the Republic’s spies and penetrate South Africa’s borders.

Then under the nose of prison guards, he succeeds in getting messages passed to the imprisoned Nelson Mandela. These secret communications help to set up the former liberation party to claim victory in South Africa’s near miraculous political transition.

Another movie is being made now and scheduled to release in early 2019 about the amazing story of how Tim Jenkin managed to escape jail by defeating nearly a dozen locked doors.

Why E-Scooters Are Big Polluters

A new scientific paper makes a number of recommendations that are so obviously good, it makes it seem the E-Scooter industry has put little to no thought into environmental harms.

We illustrate the potential to reduce life cycle global warming impacts through improved scooter collection and charging approaches, including the use of fuel-efficient vehicles for collection (yielding 177 g CO2-eq/passenger-mile), limiting scooter collection to those with a low battery state of charge (164 g CO2-eq/passenger-mile)

Turns out burning oil to shuffle empty yet charged scooters around is…wait for it…generating pollution. Science.

The study also points out short lifecycles of the scooters due to lack of resilience (against intentional or accidental harms) is another factor. The conclusion is pretty clear:

Claims of environmental benefits from their use should be met with skepticism…

In other words, ride a bicycle.

President Reagan’s Racist Speeches and Recordings

It’s been interesting to read growing confirmations that Reagan was obviously a racist and intentionally harmed Americans who did not have white skin.

One of the best explanations I’ve seen so far is how latent racism in Reagan’s campaigns elevated his popularity, while his opponents actually suffered when they tried to call it out without directly addressing Reagan as a racist.

Josh Levin writes about Carter being chastised for opposing racism, and also how Reagan escaped any condemnations at the same time.

Carter is said to have given a Neshoba County Fair speech with some strong words about fighting hatred:

“You’ve seen in this campaign the stirrings of hate and the rebirth of code words like states’ rights in a speech in Mississippi,” Carter said, adding that “hatred has no place in this country.”

And then Carter is said to have had to go on the defensive, denying he was calling Reagan a racist, while Reagan just went right on signaling with “stirrings of hate…code words”.

Moreover, Levin points out Reagan (like the present occupant in the Whitehouse) gave Nixon’s racism the appearance of being less extreme, which is no small feat.

I thought of the Neshoba County Fair and its aftermath this week when the Atlantic published a previously unknown snippet of a conversation between Reagan and President Richard Nixon. On the morning of Oct. 26, 1971, Reagan, who was then the governor of California, told Nixon that African nations were to blame for the United Nations’ vote to eject Taiwan and welcome in mainland China. “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan said in audio captured by Nixon’s White House taping system, “to see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon cackled in response. A few minutes later, the president called Secretary of State William Rogers to report, in the words of the Atlantic’s Timothy Naftali, “that Reagan spoke for racist Americans, and they needed to be listened to.”

On that tape, Reagan’s racism is direct and undeniable. Nixon, whose own racism is extraordinarily well-documented, immediately rejoices in it, laughing as Reagan talks about African “monkeys.” In his call with Rogers, by contrast, Nixon distances himself from the racist commentary, attributing it to someone more prejudiced than he is. (He also tells Rogers, erroneously, that Reagan had called the African leaders “cannibals.”) At the same time, Nixon categorizes Reagan’s views as a valuable political data point, a sentiment that needs to be understood and nurtured, not rejected.

In today’s terms, this analysis is not only historically interesting, it also impacts our debate about the safety of artificial intelligence.

When machines use only straight reasoning, devoid of the truth about Reagan’s signaling and racism, they will accelerate the harms from hatred. I spoke about this briefly in my RSA Conference Presentation earlier this year: