[Plura-list] Saturated fat and obesity, which foods produce satiety, spying VPNs, Twitter's research-friendly terms of service

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Wed Mar 11 12:19:04 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Obesity and unsaturated fats: Blaming unsaturated fats for obesity is
very plausible, but likely wrong, alas.

* The satiety index: Which foods cause or satisfy cravings?

* Sensor Tower's VPNs and adblockers spied on users: Like sneaking
laxative into Immodium.

* Twitter's new Terms of Service help academics: Good bots welcome.

* Italy's "I Stay in the House" law: The comprehensive quarantine plan.

* Scam-buster hacks into a scam-factory: He gets their CCTVs, recordings
of their calls, transaction data, Whatsapp chats, and more. Delicious.

* Postmortem: the catastrophic EU Copyright Directive. Testimony from
yesterday's Senate hearing.

* Podcast: A Lever Without a Fulcrum Is Just a Stick: My latest Locus
column, on how copyright failed artists and enriched corporations.

* This day in history: 2010, 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming
appearances, current reading


👃🏽 Obesity and unsaturated fats

Scott Alexander does a very deep dive into the literature on diet,
weight, and saturated vs unsaturated fats.


The most important elements for me were first, the validation that
something really has changed: average US adult men's weight went from
155lbs to 195lbs from the 1800s to today. The 90th percentile 1800s man
weighed 185lbs, today, it's 320lbs. US obesity rates in the 1800s were
1%. Today, they're 25%.

But the usual culprits can't explain the change: they ate more bread and
potatoes in the 1800s, for one thing.

In China, obesity rates were very low even with a diet dominated by
white rice.

1970s France had 1800s US obesity rates, on a diet of "baguettes,
pastries, cheese, meat. Lots of sugar, white flour, and fat."

It's true that some tactics (intermittent fasting, low-carbing) work for
some people, but they're not what worked in 1970s France or 1800s USA.
So if those things work, they're "hacks" – not an indictment of carbs or
eating three meals a day.

There's a widespread theory that the change is driven by the switch from
saturated to unsaturated fats, which was driven by spiking heart disease
in the 1950s. It's likely this heart disease epidemic can be attributed
to the vast increase in smoking a couple decades earlier, but the
tobacco industry's denial machine meant that the blame fell on diet, and
the US (and then global) diet's fat composition shifted dramatically.

We ate a lot fewer animal-derived fats and a lot more plant-derived
fats. These fats had lots more Omega 6s and (to a lesser extent) 3s, and
the ratio of these Omegas also changed dramatically, both in our diet
and in our bodily composition. Intriguingly, these play a significant
role in metabolism. There's a plausible ring to this whole business –
particularly as a way of crisping up what we mean when we say "avoid
processed foods." What is "processing?" Maybe it's doing something that
requires vegetable fats.

Unfortunately, neither the literature nor the lived experience of
experimenters support the theory. Studies don't support it. Meta
analyses don't support it. Reddit forums skew heavily to people saying
it didn't work for them (dotted with people for whom it did).

Which makes weight gain a mystery. It can't be (just) exercise: we're
exercising more now than we did 40 years ago, and we're heavier now.
Studies about causes are inconclusive overall, but clear that weight
gain is more explained by diet than exercise. What's more, we're seeing
weight gain in lab rats, pets and feral animals, so exercise seems an
unlikely culprit here.

Alexander ponders other possible causes: plastics or other contaminants
in our diet, or that it's a "ratchet" (once your weight set point
changes, it doesn't change back.). Both have little evidence to support

He concludes that he's "more confused than when I started it," but will
avoid unsaturated fats where possible, with the exceptions of Omega-3
rich oils (fish/olive oil).

I am likewise confused, but also better-informed than I was before I
read his post.


👃🏽 The satiety index

I lost ~100lbs in 2002/3 with a low-carb diet. The thing I immediately
noticed when I started eating (lots) more fat and (lots) less carbs was
that I was always satiated, with none of the food cravings that had
plagued me all my life.

No other diet since has had that effect. I really struggle with cravings
(and have put 50lbs back on through my 40s, though some of that is
muscle from a much higher level of exercise). For me, satiety is the
barrier to sticking to any diet. I don't just get ravenous, I get these
all-consuming cravings that I can't put out of my mind, even if I resist
them (and the longer I resist, the more likely it is that I'll really
blow it out when I give in at last).

So I was really interested in this 1995 open access study, "A Satiety
Index of common foods," which offers a league table of the foods that
made subjects feel full.


The meaty (heh) parts are in these charts on pp682-3.


👃🏽 Sensor Tower's VPNs and adblockers spied on users

Sensor Tower, a company that made apps billed as privacy-protecting,
installed man-in-the-middle certificates on your devices that let them
spy on everything you did online.


They made 20+ VPN apps for Android and Ios, but didn't disclose that all
those apps were owned by analytics company, Sensor Tower. The apps had
names like "Free and Unlimited VPN, Luna VPN, Mobile Data, and Adblock

The apps installed a "root certificate" in users' devices. With this
cert, the company could insert itself in all the device's otherwise
secure, encrypted sessions – web browsing, email, etc. Sensor Tower
admits that they collected data using this cert, but insists that it was
"anonymized," which is something most computer scientists agree is
likely impossible for this kind of data. Re-identification of anonymized
data is devilishly hard to avoid.

The claim is made even less credible when you listen to the company's
other claims about its practices, such as the idea that they hid the
authorship of their apps "for competitive reasons."

Or this howler: that "the vast majority of these apps listed are now
defunct (inactive) and a few are in the process of sunsetting." Well,
yes, they were removed for violating their users' privacy. It's not like
the company had a change of heart or anything.

And then there's this: "Apple and Google restrict root certificate
privileges due to the security risk to users. Sensor Tower's apps bypass
the restrictions by prompting users to install a certificate through an
external website after an app is downloaded."


👃🏽 Twitter's new Terms of Service help academics(permalink)

Twitter just published a new, and much-improved developer policy, one
that permits academics to field bots for research and auditing purposes.


"Researchers will be able to share an unlimited number of Tweet IDs
and/or User IDs, if they're doing so on behalf of an academic
institution and for the sole purpose of non-commercial research, such as
peer review."


Twitter's also creating a bot registry that must include contact info
for the botmaster, so that "it's easier for everyone on Twitter to know
what's a bot – and what's not."



👃🏽 Italy's "I Stay in the House" law

The FAQ for the Italian government's "I Stay In the House" decree is a
fascinating document:


Most notably, Italy has kicked out its tourists. As Bruce Sterling
writes, "It's a tourist-ectomy. An Italy devoid of all tourists. It's
fantastic, unheard-of. Surely this hasn't happened in at least 700 years."


People are allowed to go to work, to shop, and to run errands, provided
it is for an "essential purpose," which you must prove "by means of a
self-declaration which can be made on pre-printed forms already supplied
to the state and local police forces. The veracity of the
self-declarations will be subject to subsequent checks and the
non-veracity constitutes a crime."

Business travelers are permitted to enter and leave the country, cab,
delivery and freight drivers are allowed to do their jobs, and "outdoor
motor activity is allowed as long as not in a group."

Public offices are open. Training activities are suspended. Government
offices need to provide hand santizer, but if they run out, they have to
stay open ("disinfectant is a precautionary measure but itstemporary
unavailability does not justify the closure of the office").

Bars, pubs and restaurants may open from 6AM to 6PM, but have to cancel
live music, games and screening events. Theaters, cinemas and museums
are closed.

Schools are closed. Universities are closed. Exams and graduations will
be conducted by video-link. Med schools are not closed. Research
institutions are not closed.

Masses and funerals are canceled. Islamic Friday prayers are canceled.

Farms are open.


👃🏽 Scam-buster hacks into a scam-factory

Jim Browning is a talented and prolific scambaiter. He calls the numbers
listed in pop-up tech support scams and has the scammers log into a
specially prepared system that lets him trace them.

In his latest adventure, Browning thoroughly turns the tables on
http://Faremart.com , a Delhi travel agency that was the front for a
sprawling network of tech-support scammers taking in millions every year
through fraud.

Browning not only traces the scammers: he breaks into their unsecured
CCTV network so he can watch them work. He compromises their phone
system and listens to the recordings of all their scam-sessions.


He gets hold of their ledgers, which list how much money each scam nets
for the gang. He doxes the scammers and learns their real names. He gets
a confederate to fly a drone over their HQ and maps out their comings
and going.

In part II, Browning treats us to a delightful scambaiting session in
which he mercilessly trolls a scammer who claims to be in San Jose, CA,
tripping him up in a series of ever-more-desperate lies.


It's part of a growing genre of journalists who explore and document the
operations of overseas scam operations. See, for example, Reply All's
excellent podcasts on this:


There are two more parts to come in Browning's series (you can watch
them now on his Patreon, apparently):


He also turned his footage over to the BBC's flagship investigative
programme, Panorama, which has produced its own doc based on it:


Postmortem: the catastrophic EU Copyright Directive (postmortem)

Yesterday, the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held
hearings on "Copyright Law in Foreign Jurisdictions," at which two key
copyright experts testified on last year's catastrophic EU Copyright

First up was Pam Samuelson, one of America's leading copyright experts,
who explained in eye-watering detail how the compromises made to pass
the Copyright Directive produced an incoherent mess that no one can
figure out how to implement in law.


Next was Julia Reda, who served in the EU Parliament during the passage
of the directive and helped spearhead the opposition to it.

Her testimony really shows you where the bodies were buried: how the EU
knew it was making a pig's ear out of things.


Both are essential reading for anyone striving to understand Article 17
(formerly Article 13) – it is such a tangle of garbage lawmaking that
these kinds of guides are indispensable.


👃🏽 Podcast: A Lever Without a Fulcrum Is Just a Stick

I've just posted my latest podcast: a reading of my new Locus Magazine
column, "A Lever Without a Fulcrum Is Just a Stick," on how copyright
failed artists and enriched corporations and what we can do about it.


Tldr: Giving monopolies to artists doesn't help them gain leverage over
the super-concentrated entertainment industry, because the corporations
control access to audiences and force artists to sign away those
monopolies to get past their gatekeeping.

The more monopolies we give artists, the more monopolies are transfered
to corporations, and the more they dominate the market and thus the more
they can retain from the earnings generated by the artists' works.

Fights like the EU Copyright Directive are a distraction, a fight over
shifting some points from Big Tech's balance sheet to Big Content's –
but without any mechanism to move more of that revenue to creators.

Enriching creators means thinking beyond more "monopoly"-style
copyright: instead, we have to think about inalienable rights that can
be taken away through one-sided contracts (like the "reversion right"
that lets US artists take back copyrights after 35 years).

And we have to think beyond copyright itself, by beefing up competition
laws to break up entertainment cartels, and by beefing up labor laws to
let artists form unions.

There is a role for copyright, but in things like extended collective
licensing that would allow all online platforms to access the same
catalog and pay for it based on the number of users they have, so a new
platform pays pennies while Youtube pays hundreds of millions.

These blanket licenses have been key to keeping other forums for
artistic revenues open: think of what the world would be like if one
club or radio station could buy the exclusive rights to play the hits of
the day, and then use their ensuring dominance to squeeze artists.

If you prefer the written work, you can read the column here for
yourself, of course:


Here's a direct link to the MP3 of the reading (thanks as always to
Internet Archive for hosting – they'll host you too, for free!):


And here's the RSS for my podcast:


Now in its 14th year (Thanks to Mark Pesce for convincing me to start it)!


👃🏽 This day in history

#10yrsago London Olympics: police powers to force spectators to remove
non-sponsor items, enter houses, take posters

#10yrsago Leaked documents: UK record industry wrote web-censorship
amendment https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2010/bpi-drafted-web-blocking

#5yrsago Piketty on the pointless cruelty of European austerity

#5yrsago Rightscorp loses big on extortion racket

#5yrsago UK foreign secretary: stop talking about Snowden, let spies get
on with it

#1yrago Defect in car security system aids carjackers, thieves

#1yrago Former Archbishop of Canterbury cheers on students who are
walking out to demand action on climate change

#1yrago Leaked Chinese database of 1.8 million women includes a field
indicating whether they are "BreedReady"

#1yrago Why #Article13 inevitably requires filters


👃🏽 Colophon

Today's top sources: Slate Star Codex (https://slatestarcodex.com/),
Slashdot (https://slashdot.org), Fipi Lele, Matthew Rimmer

Hugo nominators! My story "Unauthorized Bread" is eligible in the
Novella category and you can read it free on Ars Technica:

Upcoming appearances:

* Museums and the Web: March 31-April 4 2020, Los Angeles.

Currently writing: I'm rewriting a short story, "The Canadian Miracle,"
for MIT Tech Review. It's a story set in the world of my next novel,
"The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. I'm
also working on "Baby Twitter," a piece of design fiction also set in
The Lost Cause's prehistory, for a British think-tank. I'm getting
geared up to start work on the novel afterwards.

Currently reading: Just started Lauren Beukes's forthcoming Afterland:
it's Y the Last Man plus plus, and two chapters in, it's amazeballs.
Last month, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs"; it's a
magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they
cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I'm getting really into
Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley." I just loaded Matt
Stoller's "Goliath" onto my underwater MP3 player and I'm listening to
it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: A Lever Without a Fulcrum Is Just a Stick

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book
about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

(we're having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies
and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the
monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a very
special, s00per s33kr1t intro.

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